Photo courtesy of Jim Grul
Scylla, the Greek nymph depicted in this painting by Jim Grul, represents a transformation from docility to monstrosity. Grul is a UA art student concerned with societal issues.
Thursday September 20, 2001
Former MIT staff member paints social distress
Jim Grul, a middle-aged, bearded man, spent more than 30 years as a foreteller of doom. Now he's an artist, creatively painting his social messages.
Grul, a UA arts student, is a former staff member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has conducted numerous policy forecasts for industry, Congress and the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations. He also worked as an independent consultant on public policy for the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.
Grul, who earned his doctorate from MIT in 1973, spent the early part of his career doing work on spacecraft guidance. It was technology that could foreseeably have been used to advance weaponry.
The prospect of mass destruction led Grul to concentrate his career on modern societal problems such as economic systems, health impact modeling and, recently, climate change consequences.
Thirty years devoted to grim topics can leave one with a grim perspective. Grul predicts a drought followed by a famine by the year 2012.
"The only real solution we have is population control," said Grul "One less person born is one less person to feed, one less person who will starve."
The futility of being able to predict a problem, but unable to prevent it, turned Grul eventually towards art, a pastime he had always wanted to pursue more seriously.
"I used to think that science was the more meaningful career, and that art was just a hobby," said Grul, "but I'm not so sure that's the case any more."
Originally, when he began pursuing art as a viable career, he visited local galleries to see what they bought and sold. In the beginning, Grul painted a lot of cowboys and Indians.
Even his early work, he said, is not without a message.
His early work is "really about a culture we're in danger of losing," he said.
He is now working under the tutelage of arts professor Alfred Quinoz.
"It's interesting that he's taking on art after so much science. We have a tendency to forget that science was once part of the arts. Artists should do what they know," Quinoz said.
Grul knows futuristic concerns.
Photo courtesy of Jim Grul
This painting by Jim Grul illustrates his ideas of what may be the consequences of cloning. Grul fears cloning may become a serious societal problem within the next decade.
"The arts department seems to concentrate on a lot of work from the 17th century," Grul said. "It seems to me that with everything that's happened, and everything in store for us, those things won't be so relevant any more."
Grul's fear is that art will lose its power as its moment slips away.
"As societal problems become increasingly severe," Grul said, "if art doesn't begin to focus on the future, it will be demoted to hobby status."
Grul recently held a benefit show for deformed children in need of orofacial surgery at the Square and Compass clinic in Tucson. He has offered to write grants, facilitate student student shows, and advise and facilitate a Web site to help bring future scientific and political concerns into student and faculty art content.
Although professor Quinoz has agreed to serve as a mentor, Grul has been unable to generate much interest within the university.
Grul will hold his next show at the Unity Gallery from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m Oct. 7 at the Unity Church at 3617 N. Camino Blanco.
Although the scientist's research and art paint a bleak picture of our future, the Sunday school teacher does offer this ray of hope: "The Earth is able to equalize itself in ways that we don't know or understand. It may be able to heal itself."