My goal has always been to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary art through my painting.
With my latest work on acrylic glass I feel as though I have achieved this goal, creating what I believe is my current nexus work. 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. Working with the actual layers to increase the visual understanding of depth within the work, allows the work to become a kinetic, ‘living’ work of art where shadows are cast upon layers and light illuminates the space within, bringing it 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.
James’ work on multi-layered acrylic glass is singular. Combining the layers of classical realism, and an old technique from the 18th century - reverse painting, James works to create abstractly, deconstructing old world tradition on modern-day material. Reinventing the landscape with this unique dimensional work, layering paint on multiple panes of acrylic glass, James takes old tradition still used by many painters today and transforms it into something relevant and captivating for our times.
James was classically trained for two years in an Atelier in the Bay area, has studied abroad in France, and is a part of the Utah Helper lineage of artists. She paints full-time, is represented by four major galleries nationally, participates in museum exhibitions and auctions, receiving museum awards. Her work is in collections nationally and internationally, both public and private. James believes it is possible to be both a museum and commercial artist, with work that is relevant, important in meaning and depth, and tells a unique story.