Briefly describe the work you do.
The apparent struggle between the natural and synthetic worlds has long been the subject of painters and photographers alike. I intend that the rusted, crumbling objects and spaces that I chose to paint stand as monuments, not to human ingenuity, but as documentation of the process by which the remnants of industry and invention often fade. I offer gentle reminders that nothing of this world truly lasts-no human innovations, inventions, nor material aspirations. In the processes of oxidation and decomposition, human imposed “order” tends toward the apparent disarray of natural order, and it is here that I’ve encountered captivating beauty. I propose that these images bear witness to the simultaneously destructive and restorative essence of that struggle.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I try to look to my immediate physical surroundings for inspiration because it ensures that I have a connection to the subject. Having grown up surrounded by the vestiges of the coal and steel industries in Pennsylvania, my geographical background has informed the literal subject matter featured in my paintings, while the primary source of my content is derived from my spiritual identity as a Roman Catholic.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
For me, first and foremost, my physical studio space represents a place to “go to work”-a space where I can work without the distractions of my workspace at home. I should also cite the abandonments that I explore and photograph as places where I create my art. While the majority of my painting discipline transpires in my studio, I strive to articulate the emotions that the abandoned spaces elicit when I’m exploring them in search of the perfect reference photos.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I suppose that I, like many artists, envision an idealized version of a career in the arts. At the outset of my fine arts education, I never would’ve anticipated that I would’ve worked to make ends meet as a wedding decorator, event photographer, graphic designer, tattoo artist or arts educator, but I’ve been blessed enough to reap both the extrinsic and intrinsic benefits from all of these opportunities.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
As much as I’d like to pretend that I’m disciplined enough to maintain a specific time for my studio practice, I’m often happy to get a couple hours in the studio immediately before or after work.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years, my work has maintained a lot of core characteristics. I’ve persisted with my style and subject matter; however, I’ve spent a lot of time working through the thematic content of my work. I like to ask questions about the spiritual world, now more than ever, and to reinforce these associations, I’ve explored different materials, disciplines and formats for presenting my work.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I draw a lot of inspiration from philosophers and theologians when I contemplate the content of my work-the cycles of desolation and consolation that I try to articulate visually. I think that the greatest impact on my art has been made by my professional mentor, Matthew Daub, whose technical insight and instruction was as influential to my formation as his career advice is now.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have always felt as though my calling was in the visual arts; however, I maintain a pretty diverse bunch of hobbies including music performance, collecting firearms and automotive mechanics.
James Maria a nationally exhibiting and award-winning watercolorist. He completed a BFA and a BS in Art Education at Kutztown University’s College of Visual and Performing arts, where he concentrated in painting with specific attention to watercolor. Since graduating in 2012, James has participated in various international juried exhibitions as well as producing two solo shows in Lancaster and Scranton, Pennsylvania. James now continues to diligently maintain his studio practice at the Goggleworks center for the arts, in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he also offers private and group instruction in drawing and watercolor technique.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.