Meet the Artist in Residence: James Mikhel Emerson

James Mikhel Emerson is an artist in residence at Main Street Arts! He’s working in one of our two studio spaces during the month of August 2016 (you can stop by the gallery to see his studio and work in progress). We asked James a few questions about his artwork, life, and more:

Artist in residence James Mikhel Emerson

Artist in residence James Mikhel Emerson in his studio at Main Street Arts

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m from a real small town called Candler, in the heartland. It’s actually an unincorporated borough, just like one that I passed real close to Clifton Springs.

"The Totem Can Project" by James Mikhel Emerson

“The Totem Can Project” by James Mikhel Emerson

Q: How long have you been making artwork?

A: I’ve been making art my whole life. Both of my parents were artist craftsmen, so I started very early in clay and paint. Later, I moved to New York City and studied traditional drawing, painting, and advanced mixed media at the Art Students League in Manhattan.

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Q: How would you describe your work? What is your preferred medium and your typical subject matter?

A: Primitive Surrealism is a term I like. I work with concepts and styles that extend across generations; things that humans can relate to regardless of time and place.

Somebody else just asked me what my preferred medium is, and I’ve been thinking about it. It’s sculpture when coupled with drawing and painting. I usually draw to absorb and explore different styles, and then sort of port that over into sculptures through a lot of different means.

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Q: Do you collect artwork?

A: I do, very occasionally. I have a couple of very cool prints, a coke bottle, some small stone objects, and a wooden piece of a new alphabet created by a great artist, Esteban Patiño. I also have a small collection of artwork that I found around NYC over the years, which was created by #FAF and #FreeArtsMovement artists. Some of it’s good stuff.

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?

A: Good question. My favorite places are anywhere art doesn’t normally occur, so outside of galleries, museums, etc. I have participated in the #FAF as I mentioned before, and have left a bunch of small sculptures in public places for people to find and to hold, so I get a kick when I find other artists doing that as well.

A recent public sculpture by James in Riverside Park South in Manhattan

A recent public sculpture by James in Riverside Park South in Manhattan

Q: What are your goals for this residency? Tell us about your current projects.

A: Right now I am working on a new series of paintings and sculptures which use old visual language to present contemporary life. I’m using a bunch of styles to create contemporary symbols and representational imagery with which to talk about the world we live in.

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Q: What advice would you give to other artists?

A: Seek the deeper function of art. Ask “What does art do for us humans, why do we keep creating it?” It is a question that is as old as us and is absolutely relevant today. See how far you can go to find your answer.

Q: What’s next for you? 

A: I think I’m gonna drive over to New York to the Wassaic Project. There are some folks over there that I’m hoping to see.

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Q: Where else can we find you?

A: You can see more of my artwork at www.jamesmikhel.com. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @JamesMikhel.


Sign up for a Social Media for Artists Workshop with James Mikhel Emerson! In this workshop, James will discuss different social media platforms and strategies for creating platform-specific content. Increase your reach and get your work in front of collectors, galleries, and more! Saturday, August 20, 2016 from 12-3pm. $25 per person. Call, email, or stop in to sign up today.

Are you an artist looking for new opportunities? Apply for a residency at Main Street Arts! Artists in residence will have 24-hour access to a large studio on our second floor (with great natural light), the option to show work in the gallery, and the opportunity to teach paid workshops. Submissions are reviewed and awarded on an ongoing basis.

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