AUBURN - Owasco Lake has inspired area artist Jack White almost as much as his family and friends inspire his portraits.

"Jack White Drawings, Finished and Unfinished," an art exhibit sponsored by the Cayuga County Arts Council, hangs through Nov. 30, at the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, 36 South St., from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

This collection of drawings consists predominantly of portraits and "The Owasco Series," sketches of Owasco Lake and its immediate vicinity. The drawings represent a departure from White's usual themes and materials.

His recent "Ancestral Leanings" series fuses wood, copper, canvas and paint to create imagery built upon textures and geometric shapes that are reminiscent of African masks. White's portraits are of his wife, Valerie, children and friends he's known over the years.

'No erasing at all'

"Portraiture is a very direct way of making an image, and I normally do them without erasing at all, "White said. "I do portraiture in ink, I want to get the image in one shot, no changes. By drawing in this process, there is an immediacy to them, it happens right away if you get it right, and getting it right means concentrating more with a medium I can't change."

Usually an abstract artist, White also exhibits sketches of Owasco Lake that evolved out of sunbathing.

"My wife and I and some friends used to go to a scenic area of the lake so she could get some sun. I found myself bringing my sketchbook and began sketching every time I went. Soon I had this enormous amount of sketches, and I began to give them to friends as part of the 'birthday club' we belong to. Now almost all of our friends have these lake sketches."

The medium used for the sketches include pencil, pen and acrylics. They are stark, beautiful sketches of Owasco Lake and the surrounding countryside.

From Auburn to Athens

White's innovative work has earned notice in Greece, where he has lived for most of 2002. His recent works will be included in an exhibit in Athens this fall. With prospects for an upcoming solo show in Europe, he will return in 2003 for six months to the historic land that has inspired and produced so much great artwork. The artist has taken advantage of the relative quiet of his State Street studio in Auburn this summer to prepare for a December exhibit in Baltimore at his alma mater, Morgan State University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1958.

Grants from the prestigious Forsheim and Ford foundations top the list of awards and recognition White has earned. After a career of teaching art on the secondary and university levels, White now pursues his full-time commitment as an innovative artist. His work has been acquired and exhibited by numerous museums, universities and private collections throughout the United States and the world.

Reception here Friday

A reception for White will take place at the chamber, from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday.

"I'd like exhibit visitors to enjoy these sketches," White said. "My paintings are usually very abstract, so with this exhibit I display how I was originally trained to draw and how I grew out of that into something that was totally different. I have never wanted to paint what other people painted. It would not be unique to me."

To reach Staff Writer Jane Stebbins, call 253-5311, Ext. 245.