Savannah Based Artist Jim Cone Is A Man On Fire


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Artist Jim Cone with a piece of his artwork.

When Jim Cone visited the owner of 24e, a Savannah Georgia based business, he was pitching an idea he had to have a show like no other and he wanted to host it at Ruel Joyner’s store.

The artist in Jim knew there no was better location to have the show since 24e is one of the most eclectic, coolest stores in this region and the alignment to his work could not be more perfect. But something else caught Ruel‘s eye. As Jim was laying out the plan, Ruel noticed  above the artists head in a distance was the only Picasso that was hanging in the store. Heck, perhaps the only in this region. Ruel was dumbstruck... so much so, he whipped out his phone and snapped a shot to capture the moment. A few months later, the store turned gallery hosted hundreds of curious art lovers and Jim Cone’s dream had come to life. By the way, Jim was also fresh off fighting a bout of cancer that normally wins, but after losing half of his jaw and tongue, Jim emerged victorious. He has been there and back and wants to give back to those that made sure he was here to fight another day. 

Soft sun warms the walls of 24e, an upscale furniture gallery on Broughton Street in downtown Savannah. Jim Cone, clad in white trousers and baby blue button up shirt, adjusts a painting—his painting—that hangs beside one of the second floor’s unadorned 10-foot arched windows. Cone steps away, then steps forward to gently tap the painting. When it is square, he steps back again, shoulders loosened. The gentle caress of sunlight on Cone’s smile reveals the asymmetry of his jaw.

“I’m just recovering from cancer,” he says, “if you have a hard time understanding me, tell me to slow down.” Though muffled, his words are discernible, which is a genuine miracle. Jim Cone battled the odds against an aggressive, near-fatal form of tongue cancer. Now at the window, triumphant and glowing in the afternoon sun, Cone gets to revel in the glory of sharing his art with the world.

My Savannah II,Jim Cone

But Cone doesn’t consider himself a trained painter. With a handful of art and painting classes under his belt, he mostly relies on his own perspective of form and color to shape his art.  In the 1970’s he painted marsh landscapes that sold on River Street. “But I got too wrapped up in thinking about how to sell it all,” recalls Cone, “the commercial part started eating away at the creative process.” In 1980, he vowed to paint only for himself; no more commissions and no more worrying about how to sell his work. He continued painting, though, with a passion that rarified and refined his art into what it is today.

And so two parallel careers emerged. By day he worked for Georgia Power, handling downtown Savannah commercial accounts for over 30 years. All the hotel and restaurant staffs knew Cone. “He was the guy who, even if a place lost power in the middle of the night, Jim would be on the scene figuring out how to get the lights back on,” recalls Ruel Joyner, owner of 24e. “The restaurants loved him because Jim really understood that no power meant no food, meant no customers, meant no money.” Revered for his work at the utility company, in 2016 Savannah Tourism Leadership Council named Cone a Community Champion.

But at night, on weekends and whenever he could, Jim Cone painted—to date he’s created more than 600 paintings and sculptures, his work clearly influenced by the cubism of Braque and Picasso. But instead of earth tones and muted colors, Cone’s work evolved into portraits based on highly saturated cubes, cones, and spheres of color. “Picasso kicked the door of cubism open, I walked through and went my own way,” says Cone.

Woman in Red Scarf,Jim Cone

His painting, “Yellow Cat,” conveys that well. A large tabby sits as the focal point, painted with the angular majesty reminiscent of the Egyptian pyramids. Red, green, and blue geometries stand behind the regal feline.  “That’s the one I’d like to make into a book for children,” muses Cone, “for them to learn about cubism at an early age.” The image is robust, playful, and fun in a way different from the works of Braque and Picasso. “Yellow Cat” is accessible.

The light from the window catches his eye, and Cone goes into the friendship of Braque and Picasso, speaking about how Cezanne mentored both when they were young men. “These artists were visually creating motion and simultaneous, multiple dimensions,” Cone continues, the sunlight dancing in his eyes. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful for children to learn about them at a young age?” Cone’s heartfelt respect for Braque, Picasso, and Cezanne shines. 

To read more about Jim Cone, subscribe now or pick up the June/July issue of South magazine. 

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Scenes of the South

2020 Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association held its annual Southern Coast Heart Ball on Saturday, February 8th at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception with a silent auction, dinner and program, and dancing to end the evening. All proceeds went to the Open Your Heart campaign.

4th Annual Hearts for Healing Gala

Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center held its Fourth Annual Hearts for Healing Gala on Friday, February 7th at the Tybee Island Wedding Chapel. Guests enjoyed gourmet dining, dancing, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction benefitted the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center's program for individuals with disabilities.

IDC Benefits the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire

The LeClerc Family owners of IDC (International Diamond Center) in Savannah 349 Mall Blvd held a benefit to support the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire on Thursday, February 6th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Guests enjoyed light food and drinks, while bidding on several silent auction items, including autographed footballs and helmets donated by Anthony Lanier II.

Royce Learning Center Annual Low Country Boil & Oyster Roast

The Royce Learning Center held their annual low country boil and oyster roast on Saturday, February 1st. Guests enjoyed mingling over the seafood selection. Royce Learning Center meets the needs of children and adults with learning differences and literacy needs through its unique programs.

Dining in the Dark 2020

The Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision held its annual Dining in the Dark event on Saturday, January 18th at the Embassy Suites Downtown Savannah. Guests were served a four-course meal in complete darkness by the Savannah Metro's SWAT team. Dining in the Dark serves to raise awareness about vision loss.

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South magazine in collaboration with Southern Eagle Distributing hosted their monthly Brews for a Cause on Thursday, January 16th at the Savannah Taphouse in a successful effort to raise money and awareness for the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision. The night featured delicious appetizers by Savannah Taphouse and a range of flavored Bud Light Seltzers provided by Southern Eagle. These events provide good food, fun entertainment, refreshing drinks and most importantly – raise money for a great cause! Be sure to be on the lookout for our next Brews in February!

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Dickey Mopper and his team at Engel and Völkers celebrated the season at their annual holiday party on Wednesday Dec. 11, with a special appearance from the jolly fellow himself, Santa Claus. Mopper and company, celebrating alongside the crew of Victory Antiques, showed off the newest Engel and Völkers office at 1650 East Victory Dr. in Savannah.

Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant's 2nd Anniversary Celebration feat. Lady Leah

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