James Vose displays The Social Life of Pears in Huss

Although students spend much of the day learning in their STEM and Humanities classes, looking out of the textbooks and at the lives of pears can provide similarly valuable insights about the world and our lives. And, all students need to do to educate themselves on this fruit is to walk over to the Huss gallery near Driscoll and look to the walls where lawyer and artist James Vose’s collection titled The Social Life of Pears hangs. This work essentially tracks the timeline of the lives of pears as they go through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death in drawings. 

Pears have a lot of insightful things to say about humans—in particular, about human arrogance and pretension.

— James Vose

An oil on linen painting by Vose called “Sour Notes.” To view his collection of pear sketches, students should visit the Huss gallery near Driscoll.

“I cannot tell you what inspired me to make drawings about pears. I had no plan, it just evolved,” Vose said. His work is divided up into four life stages—The Young Pear, The Adolescent Pear, The Pear at Mid-Life, and The Pear in Senescence—and throughout his collection, the fruit endure all aspects of life from learning to read, to watching Halloween pumpkin carving in horror, to vacationing on the beach in retirement.

Vose described how his artistic journey began when a friend gave him a sketchbook. “It was a nice compact thing with a spiral wire binding and black cover. I kept it in my office, and started to put tiny office still lifes into it,” he said.

Vose transitioned from sketching office supplies scattered on his desk such as paper clips, pencils, and coins, to incorporating pears into his work. “At some point I put pears in into some of these little drawings. I don’t know why. Maybe I had a pear on my desk one day … Once I added pears to these drawings I noticed how the irregular shapes of the pears seemed to disclose attitudes and personalities,” he said.

After noticing these shapes that provide character to the inanimate pears, Vose began personifying the fruit by giving them stories and a narrative. “It struck me that these drawings and their stories comprised a narrative of the life of a pear, from blossom to consumption.”

After spending time making mismatched sketches of pears and developing the narrative that accompanied each drawing, he began to create a more uniform collection of sketches that fit together into a developed story. “Each one of the final drawings in the current set took about ten or twelve three to four hour sessions … I went through a lot of pears, and pencils,” Vose said.

Another oil on linen painting by Vose titled “Roasted Peppers.”

In terms of what Vose hopes students who view his work will take away from it, he states “What I discovered is that the pears have a lot of insightful things to say about humans—in particular, about human arrogance and pretension. I would not have guessed this when I started.”

Students can visit the Huss gallery to view his beautiful sketches and perhaps gain some insight into their own lives through The Social Life of Pears.

To view more of his work, students can visit his website James Vose Fine Art.