James V. Freeman has built a substantial following for his Magic Realist oil paintings. He has had numerous solo shows, a solo museum show and has been in many juried exhibitions hosted by museums and arts organizations. Mr. Freeman has received numerous awards: highlights include twice earning a Grand Prize in International Artist Magazine, inclusion in New American Paintings, American Art Collector, Poets & Artists magazines, and Best in Show awards at several museums. In 2002 he was included in Doris Brandes' book "Artists of the River Towns", a survey of select artists living and working in communities along the Delaware River, published from New Hope, Pa. He currently has a studio in Estero, Fl and continues to exhibit in regional and national venues.
My oil paintings are a combination of landscape and still-life, three dimensional looking places of dramatically charged form and color, drawing from biomorphic, naturalistic and landscape sources for inspiration. I create imagined environments where aesthetic impulses that represent my deepest feelings and ideas converge to form a compelling, memorable landscape that, although wrought of my personal subjective visual language, manage to transfer their basic meaning upon the minds of others remarkably intact. There is no narrative or editorial; only a complex design of object/landscape, manufactured/organic, recruited and ordered with intimate care in an atmosphere-rich picture plane.
These visions of intertwined landscapes and objects mesmerize with a playful distortion of scale by combining tiny, up-close objects with middle-ground and distant scenery. I make the very most of everything from extreme foreground to distant background zones and integrate them into a visually unified feast for the eyes. These images are composed largely from memory, luminous and dreamlike, in a way that is at once abstract and sculpturally realistic. The viewer often sees the abstract goal of the image before visually stepping into the spatial landscape. All of these tools I use to convey my haunted fascination with passage of time, psychological and spatial relativity, sensuality, natural process and decay, unending childhood zeal and a range of complex emotions.
Additionally, depicting manufactured detritus ensconced in a natural way within ecological settings is the natural historian in me accepting that, as animals and plants leave behind startling architecture gems of nature - molted exoskeletons, calcium carbonate shells, webs, seed pods, and other morphological treasures as evidence of their existence, humans are an animal part of nearly all ecologies and leave behind patterned evidence in the form of cast-offs, or litter. Environmental degradation is alarming, but there can also be great prosaic visual beauty in observing the full panorama of evidential leave-behinds, including our own. Perhaps that, and in realizing that our manufactured implements are already long part of the fossil record, we can make peace with our presence while striving to achieve balanced participation in nature, not ruin it. To start, my paintings can be seen as something like an Audubon-esque snapshot of environments that include the beauty and logic of industrial design with the architecture of nature, acknowledging that as we come from nature’s evolution, so does the fundamental logic of our designed shapes, functions and proportions…..all the way down to the hydrogen rhythm. The vector of all this creative interest and deep thought is my perpetual impulse to fill my pocket with wondrous curios from my journeys to examine.
The category of art that best fits my art is Magic Realism, as opposed to surrealism. Magic Realism, originally a Central American literary movement broadened to include visual art, portrays the improbable but not impossible, whereas Surrealism outright defies the laws of physics, without boundaries. With Magic Realist art, the viewer is stimulated by the thrill of extranatural, even supernatural charm contrasted with believable, grounded spatial logic.
First artistic experiences
My first artistic experieces that I can remember happened when I was 3 1/2 years old, during the cicada hatch of 1973. I was fascinated with the maroon and orange cottonwood and maple flowers that littered the ground like fireworks explosions frozen in a moment in time.......things otherwise fleeting that I could pick up, investigate and possess, for a change. That not being enough after a few minutes of bliss and wonder, I felt a need to enhance and extend the experience of the zeal of discovery by ensconcing the flowers into dried dirt chunk mounds, with many holes for light and a top hole for viewing. Eye pressed against the viewhole, I got the first one right, then built a bunch more. Only a couple of these mounds satisfied a hunger to fully possess the object/idea/experience; the rest fell short.
I believe I got the idea to augment my object of interest with an imagined optical device from playing with all of the photographic equipment my father had around the house - telephoto lenses, slide projectors, artograph plus a kaleidoscope. My dirt mounds had no power of magnification, of course, but It was my first attempt to constructively enhance the experience of an object of interest by building a relative, spatial context for it. There's a continuance of this in my paintings today.
The cicada hatch happened upon my return to the same spot of dirt in the yard, looking for animal and plant stuff to collect. I was playing with tree flower parts and empty moth pupa shells when they started to emerge from the ground and also land on me. It was a bit scary, but mostly fascinating. The ground seemed alive with their emergence. The cicadas I picked up fit in my small hand like something the size of a cell phone, writhing and clawing to get away.
Undoubtedly the idea seeds for what I would develop as an aesthetic for design, composition andconcept in my art. Relative context, scale and design of objects and landscape, foreground/middleground/ background, as well as intense interaction with animal morphology, are central to the driving force behind my art. As a boy, any mindfulness I had was largely spent scanning all horizons for intrinsically valuable visual treasures, taking me to magical places in my head. A slice of exotic sky, a bank of trees in sunrise, frogs, turtles, plants......always looking for value there, unaware of why, or that it was the gestating artist in me.