Malibu resident Jodi Simon has recently been asking the question: Is it nature or is it nurture that makes a person an artist?
“It’s a crazy story,” the Malibu resident of eight years said. “I was adopted at birth 53 years ago in Los Angeles. I have always been an artist—even though I was raised in a family of nonartists. I always knew it came from somewhere.”
Simon wanted to find out where her artistic talents came from, so, 20 years ago, she sought her birth mother and found her, but “that turned out to be a bit of a disaster,” she explained. Apparently, Simon’s birth mother did not want to be contacted. She also refused to identify Simon’s biological father and, in fact, may have purposefully led her in the wrong direction in finding him.
Then, last Christmas, Simon’s daughter bought her a home DNA testing kit. Simon took the test and then, recently, a friend whom Simon termed an “armchair genealogist” read the test results and “basically, in 24 hours, she found my biological father.” That man—John Duron—is a working artist who—as luck would have it—lives close by in Camarillo. Duron never knew he had a child since the birth mother had never informed him. Duron has been working as an artist his entire adult life. He only moved his studio to Ventura County a year-and-a-half ago after operating 40 years in Toluca Lake.
Simon and Duron met for the first time just weeks ago this summer.
“It’s been just fantastic,” she claimed. “I couldn’t ask for more. His whole family has been incredibly receptive, loving and everything. Now we just sit on the phone and talk art for four, five hours a day.” And Duron knows the art world. He’s been exhibited internationally. In the 1990s, he had a successful one-man show in Havana, Cuba, making him the first American artist to be exhibited there in 40 years.
Not only are Simon and her biological dad Duron artists, but Simon’s son Nick is also a working professional artist who goes by the moniker “cantstopgoodboy.” cantstopgoodboy has been galleried all over the world, as well. He has a yearly show at Canvas in Malibu. At only 28 years old, Nick has been working professionally since age 20, when his career took off. He was doing so well that he needed help managing his work so his father left his full-time work in the insurance industry to manage cantstopgoodboy. Simon, who is trained in art restoration, called herself a “helper” to her son.
“He’s naturally an artist,” she explained, but added, “I taught him how to paint before he could talk.”
Simon describes the three generations of related artists as producing pieces that are “very, very similar contemporary art—colorful art.” All are painters. “We all have similar ideas. It’s amazing,” Simon happily described.
Simon herself never had any formal training. She said she passed her natural talents on to her son Nick.
With the newly discovered connection between the Simon and Duron families, there is already a plan of cantstopgoodboy and John Duron exhibiting together at Miami’s prestigious Art Basel show. And Simon pointed out that photos of Duron as a teenager that she had never seen until recently look strikingly similar to her son Nick. Another eerie coincidence is that Duron too has a son named Nick.
As for Simon’s initial question—whether it’s nature or nurture that makes an artist—she may have taught her son to paint, but she answers the question: “It’s definitely nature. Yeah, 100 percent. There’s no doubt in my mind.”