Painting with Pride

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Jumper Maybach named official artist of Houston celebration.

By Laura Gillespie

After enduring horrific discrimination and harassment at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Houston artist Ben Workman, aka Jumper Maybach, says he channeled his struggles into art.

Beginning June 1, scores of Workman’s creations are being showcased in Houston and across the country as part of The Pride Collection: INTROSPECTION. Pride Houston has named Workman its official artist for this year’s celebration, and he will host a special event at his gallery in the Heights on June 15. Workman will also donate a portion of proceeds from the sale of his paintings during Pride Month to Pride Houston.

“This series of works is one of the most engaging and important of my entire career,” Workman says. “I wanted to create something to show my ongoing love and support for my community, as well as the courageous men and women partaking in the #MeToo movement. As a victim of workplace sexual discrimination, I felt it was my duty to stand up and express myself at this pivotal time in history. I want my art to be that beacon of hope that inspires others to stand up to ending injustices within society.”

In 2011, after being outed as gay by a coworker, Workman says he had a “spiritual awakening” and turned to art to cope. But he didn’t just use paint and brushes—he also created his clown persona, Jumper Maybach.

“Jumper did help me grow and overcome the problems I was having from being bullied,” Workman says in an interview with OutSmart at his studio.

While at the VA, Workman was embroiled in two separate harassment and discrimination lawsuits. He prevailed in both cases, but because he still had to work with his tormentors on a daily basis, his life became unbearable. While kneeling in his living room and praying for guidance and help in his desperation, he was immediately and mysteriously compelled to paint. Even though he had never painted before, he rushed out to buy supplies and began painting works on canvas.

Jumper the Clown was born out of a childhood interest in clown face that his grandfather also donned from time to time. In clown face, Jumper Maybach could do things that Ben Workman could not do in his state of despair.

“I figured I needed to teach and show other people they can do the same thing—try and help them overcome any type of problem that they’re having with either coming out, being a different size, or being discriminated against because [of their] race,” he says.

Workman has been described as “the Jackson Pollock of the 21st century,” and his current exhibit features colorful abstract designs along with written messages such as “Born this way” and “Proud to be me.” He says his pieces can take from four hours to several days to create, and they sell for up to $14,000. Collectors include transgender-rights activist Jazz Jennings, Edward James Olmos, and others.

“What I’ve been through in my life that led me into painting actually speaks the Pride message: if you can move on, [you can] develop into something that can make a difference in the world through being a humanitarian, activist, and philanthropist,” Workman says.

Since he began painting seven years ago, Workman’s art has appeared in Dubai, Barcelona, Venice, and Montreal. He also released an award-winning documentary film, The Jumper Maybach Story, chronicling his experiences.

“Jumper’s art is very individualistic. He does something that really I haven’t seen anybody do before,” Pride Houston secretary Jeremy Fain says. “You [can] look at it and automatically tell it’s Jumper Maybach, just from the colors and the technique that he uses.”

Fain says the event at Workman’s gallery is one of several family-friendly activities, including Rainbow on the Green, that are part of a diverse Pride lineup this year.

“I think this is going to reach a completely different demographic—a person in the community that doesn’t necessarily go out to the bars and the parties,” Fain says. “There are a lot of gays out there that love art. We haven’t really done anything in that realm since I’ve been a part of Pride.”

In addition to more than 60 of his works on display in Houston, Maybach is sending his art across the U.S. during Pride Month to galleries in Nashville, Richmond, and San Diego.

What: The Pride Collection: Introspection
When: 6–10 p.m. on June 15
Where: Jumper Maybach Fine Art Gallery, 238 W. 19th St.
More info: JumperMaybach.com

This article appears in the June 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.


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David Webb

David Webb is a veteran Texas journalist with four decades of experience in the mainstream and alternative media.

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