Jamie Loper has seen some pretty amazing sights in his life. The former professional figure skater has performed around the world and visited more than 70 countries. But the Brandywine High School graduate says his most moving visuals and memories are those of his childhood immersion in the art of his father and grandfather, the renowned local artists Edward, Sr. and Edward Jr.
Loper recently returned to Wilmington full-time after a career performing with Disney and is now putting all his not-insignificant energy into a new exhibition of his family’s work, The Loper Tradition: Paintings by Edward Loper, Sr. and Edward Loper, Jr., opening at the Delaware Art Museum on March 23.
“This show – being involved in [stewarding], my father’s and grandfather’s art – is the greatest thing that’s happened to me,” said Jamie.
We spoke with Loper petit-fils about the experience growing up surrounded by celebrated artists, his hopes to take the Loper show on the road and the uncanny coincidence of sharing the same name as another third-generation member of a famous local artist family.
TSD: Growing up in a family with multiple generations of accomplished artists, did you feel any pressure to go into ‘the family business?’
Jamie Loper: As a child, the vision and intensity of my father and grandfather’s work was intimidating – they were producing something that was very special and unique. How did they get that vision? I fell in love with their art but gravitated more to athletics. I started skating at Wilmington Skating Club as a child, got really into ice hockey and figure skating and ultimately turned professional. My father always said “your skating is an art,” so in a way I followed in their footsteps.
TSD: Sports opened up fascinating doors for you.
Loper: I ended up skating professionally with Disney, touring about 10 months out of the year as a principal performer for 20 years. Wilmington was always home base, but I performed in 45 countries and visited more than 70. It was an incredible experience. Skating allowed all that.
I really tumbled into sports on my own. My dad never pushed me into it. I did recently go through my dad’s yearbook – he went to Howard, Class of ’54 – and ice skating was in there!
TSD: Did your father ever talk to you about his own path into art, and his feelings about being the “second Edward Loper” artist?
Loper: My father wasn’t very revealing. He always aspired to be his own man – some work is similar, but he always wanted to be his own Edward Loper – he wanted to be his own man. People will see that in this show.
TSD: Your father and grandfather were self-taught artists. But education and teaching others has been an important feature of their lives – how has that influenced you?
JL: Both men were totally focused on their painting – I really only knew my grandfather as a painter and teacher. He was always teaching, sharing books of Titian and Cezanne with me and challenging me to look at and think about the colors and technique. I coach hockey and figure skating in the Tri-state area – and I think I’ve developed a teaching style like my grandfather’s. I’m a bit relentless, like him. Tough, demanding, aiming to perfection with what I call a “small window of tolerance.” It means bringing a really passionate but positive level of intensity to the work.
TSD: Talk about your role in producing this show.
Loper: I’ve long felt I was responsible for shepherding or serving as a guardian of the collection. As a little kid I knew this would fall on my shoulders at some point. I now have the time to give and focus to apply to this collection. I view my role as taking the frontman position, the maître de of the collection.
So, when we were presented with the idea by Margaret Winslow at the museum, we knew it was something we needed to do. Collaborating has been an extraordinary journey. I played all kinds of lead roles like Tarzan and others at Disney … all that work seems to pale in comparison to helping with something like this with my family’s name on it. – a big moment.
The paintings in the exhibition are drawn from our family’s collection and private collections from all over the country.
TSD: So what’s next for you and the Loper family art story?
Loper: I’m going to continue coaching — skating will always be with me. I believe the art of Edward Sr. and Jr. will be of great interest to audiences beyond the region. Hopefully, we will be able to take this show on the road and around the world.