The San Diego Union Tribune
His first art exhibition, held in his hometown of Houston in February 2013, led to an improbable invitation to exhibit at Art Dubai — the preeminent contemporary art fair in the Middle East — the very next month.
A connection at Art Dubai led to an exhibition in Barcelona. And then France. And then the Netherlands.
Life for LGBT artist and activist Jumper Maybach these past five years has been like that.
Five years earlier, before Jumper Maybach, he was just Ben Workman. Workman didn’t paint. He’d worked at Houston’s Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center since 1983 and built a successful career as a systems administrator.
But in a workplace where, at that time, open hostility and overt sexual harassment were constant and outrageous, Workman endured for years before filing suit against his employer, the Veteran’s Administration.
Although he prevailed in court, he said the offensive culture at his job persisted.
Driven to despair after a lifetime of bullying, Workman turned to prayer.
“I couldn’t take being bullied anymore and went into a deep prayer,” he said. “I heard what I consider was God’s voice telling me to be Jumper the Clown and to create art as a way to reach people — to end their hate and intolerances.”
It may sound far-fetched, but Workman, inspired, went out to buy painting supplies.
“I didn’t question it,” he said. “I’ve just followed the path that’s been laid out for me as I go along. Doors open. Don’t question it — just go through that door. That’s what I’ve done since 2011, and it just keeps leading to bigger things.”
In the as-yet-unreleased documentary “The Jumper Maybach Story,” Workman describes Jumper as the manifestation of everyone who wants to be accepted for who he is: “Not categorized as a clown, not as a gay man. Just as a human being doing what he loves to do, trying to help people as best he can.”
“Once people get beyond the clown face, they see that and it dawns on them that you can be whatever you want to be,” he said.
Through a newfound freedom of expression, Workman as Jumper Maybach began to share the message of universal love and acceptance, creating a sufficient number of paintings to present his first exhibition by February 2013.
Returning to Houston after the unexpected whirlwind international tour of 2013, Jumper opened his first gallery. Since then, he’s moved three times to larger studios to keep up with what he calls “this constant need to put out art.”
Now, Jumper is known for his frequently oversized and always colorful abstract canvases — an eclectic mix of different artistic styles.
His latest series of works celebrate Pride 2018 and show his love and support for the LGBT community and the #MeToo movement.
After its first showing during Houston’s Pride celebration last month, when Jumper was designated the official artist of Pride Houston 2018, the series has embarked on a tour of galleries throughout the United States.
“It’s the vision that Ben had that gave birth to Jumper,” he said. “Spreading the word of tolerance, ending hate and ending bullying is spreading through Jumper, and it’s making me, Ben, more comfortable with who I am and what I’m all about.
“The Pride Collection: INTROSPECTION”
When: On display through July 31. Artist appearances: 5-8 p.m. Thursday, July 12, 5-8 p.m. Friday, July 13. (Admission to the meet-and-greet is free, but attendees must RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Where: Meyer Fine Art, 2400 Kettner Blvd., Suite 104, Little Italy.
Phone: (619) 358-9512