Oakley, UT with my girl Roxy

My goal has always been to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art through my painting.

Through the deconstruction of very traditional ways of oil painting, I have found a way to take what is old and make it into something new for our times by painting and then layering on a modern surface. Sculpting, as it were, the landscape from back to front. In my new paintings on multiple panels of acrylic glass, I am working with the actual layers to increase the visual understanding of depth within the work, allowing the work to become a kinetic, ‘living’ work of art. Shadows are cast upon layers and light illuminates between the layers of glass within, bringing each painting to life. Reinventing the way in which landscape is painted and seen traditionally makes this work singular and inventive. Painting on both sides of five layers of acrylic glass creates an intricate puzzle that is 3-dimentional, sculptural, and kinetic.


My paintings are an investigation of the intersection of traditional landscape imagery and modern ideas about painting and color. In my practice, I attempt to reconcile my personal history as an art-maker, as well as the tradition of landscape painting, with a contemporary art practice that borrows more specifically from a language of Modernism—specifically in regards to mid-century conversations about painting.  Incidentally, both genres at work in my practice (abstraction and landscape) have a tradition of exploring ideas about the Sublime—Romantic and Modern—respectively. 

While my subject matter draws heavily from landscape, my process and true exploration is about painting in a Modern sense. My brush strokes become objects that hold their own presence. The colors and layering I use both create the illusion of space and undermine it in the proverbial push-pull of abstract painting.  The interplay between light and shadows cast upon the many layers adds to the sculptural interpretation while also creating ‘living’ paintings that appear kinetic, interacting with the natural environment. The purpose of the layering of a transparent painting surface is to raise the stakes; the points of depth are deeper and the points of flatness are flatter. The increased depth and complication of flipping the surface back and forth and layering it multiple times is a demonstration of the mastery of the material as well as a device to push the boundaries of the flatness/depth dichotomy in every painting. My paintings are at once paintings and sculptures and they are at once landscapes and quite the opposite of that—something acrylic and manufactured that is more reflective of contemporary culture.  


Born and raised in Utah, I was always a free spirit allowed to roam the open fields near my home. Graced with the peaceful sounds of the Willow Creek running through my backyard I was surrounded by old growth trees that towered above me. I could spend hours outside playing in the dirt or lying on my back listening to the birds and looking up at the clouds through these trees. 

I have always loved the Bay Area in California and so, I headed West to attend a two year intensive program at The Bay Area Classical Artists' Atelier. Completing my Classical training at an Atelier in Paris, I returned home to continue my studies in Helper, Utah. I continue to look for new ways of creating and expressing myself that have not yet been explored, marking my way individualistically as an artist.

James’ work is collected nationally and internationally and she is represented in five galleries in the western U.S. Recent museum exhibitions include Desire Lines at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, a 10 year retrospective at The Woodbury Art Museum, The Springville Museum of Art and the C.M. Russell Museum.

Janell James’ pieces must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. They are mesmerizing, vibrant and sophisticated.
— Rick Armstrong, Owner, Rare Gallery of Fine Art, Jackson Hole, WY
I am always impressed by Janell’s ability to capture in paint the essence of what it is in the natural world that ignites the spark of wonder and awe in all of us. That is truly a rare and exceptional talent.
— Kristian Anderson, Executive Director, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA)
Janell’s dedication over the past ten years to her full-time painting career is impressive to say the least, especially speaking as a gallery owner, this is but one aspect that I feel makes her collectible as an artist. She is one of the hardest working artists I have come across, focused and determined to make a way for herself as a professional in a career that requires both persistence and resilience, marketing skills, commitment to her trade, and an adaptability that allows her to continue to create new processes of work unlike any other. She is unique and original in this nexus of work and, this is what makes her stand out as an artist to watch.
— Zack Terakedis
Janell’s creative drive and passion to paint and to create the highest quality artwork are admirable. She studies continually and paints masterfully in a style she has uniquely developed as her own. Her paintings are recognizable at a distance because of their unique quality and subject. Her trees make you feel like a child again, lying on the ground and gazing up toward the sky, looking at the leaves and delicate branches. These paintings often contain surprising vibrant colors that give them vitality and interest.
— Susan Gallacher