Jimi Gleason: Alchemy - From Silver Bullion to Works of Art


A native of Newport Beach, Jimi Gleason attended Orange Coast College for its strong rowing team, later transferring to UC Berkeley. In his senior year, he discovered ceramics and printmaking, taking Zen-like satisfaction in pulling ink across surfaces. He graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 1985.  After a brief stint at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jimi moved to New York City, where he lived the life of an experimental painter while working as a photo assistant and photo technician.  Upon returning to California, he worked as a studio assistant for renowned abstractionist, Ed Moses.

Jimi Gleason has spent his career exploring the reflective possibilities of a painterly surface. “By using iridescent and silver nitrate surface coats, I have managed to create visual spaces that respond to both the play of light and the location of the viewer,” he says. Mixing nontraditional materials such as silver deposit with acrylic paints, Gleason’s surfaces are highly reactive to light and shifts in the viewer’s position. Rather than focusing on the surface as an end in itself, his paintings track the play of light and the movement of the viewer, thereby acting as a mirror onto the external world. Through this interaction, Gleason hopes to induce a meditative experience for his viewers.

The silver nitrate paintings begin with a solid bar of silver, that is dissolved in concentrated nitric acid.   Once the nitric acid has evaporated Jimi is left with silver nitrate (a solid).  This element is then mixed with sodium hydroxide to create silver oxide which is dissolved in ammonium to create a compound that can be applied to the surface of the canvas.   This complicated and pricey technique produces paintings that are unique in both process and beauty.