Jumper Maybach (née Ben Earl Workman) is a Houston artist who channels a clown persona to make his art come to life. No, he isn’t performing at children’s birthday parties, but rather allowing a deep passion to come through his body to create vibrant works of art. It may sound silly, but Workman’s goal is a very personal mission to raise awareness.
We sat down with the member of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce to get a look into the Houston art world and just what goes on in that zany head of his.
How did you get into art?
What led me to art was a bullying episode on my job because I was a gay man. I couldn’t take it anymore and went into a deep, meditative prayer and heard a voice telling me to be Jumper and to paint. I hadn’t even picked up a paintbrush until April 2011. But I say, “when a door opens, don’t question it just go through it.“
So, who is Jumper Maybach?
My grandfather was a clown and first painted my face when I was 3-4 years old. I grew up never being afraid of clowns so maybe it was just my psyche channeling that better feeling.
Like an alter ego?
Yes, Jumper has been therapeutic in that I can focus my hurt and stress into the art and overcome the pain of being discriminated against and the intolerance.
What would you like your art to accomplish?
One of my missions in life, and art, is to tell people to not let being who you are hold you back from doing what you need to do in life and to stand up and be proud of who you are. If I can change one life then I feel like I have done something good.
I don’t see myself in the art, I see Jumper. I want to heal any pain that people maybe went through as a kid because I went through a lot and knows how it feels to be different.
How would you describe the Houston art scene?
Houston has really become a city that has changed drastically for the art world starting about 10 years ago. I think the mayors are using art to show off Houston’s diversity and entice visitors.
What do you think visitors like about Houston art?
People do not just want to come for the galleries and museums but also to see where the artists live and get their inspiration.
The one thing that is starting to change around me, here on 19th street, is having a sip and stroll on the third Thursday of each month. The street is blocked off and people can visit the shops, get a drink and meet the owners. It is a great way to meet new people and show off the gallery.
What is next for you and your gallery?
I am still promoting my film around the country and getting it into film festivals. Also, I created one of the helmets for the Super Bowl that showcased Houston artists which is pretty nice.