Local weekly paper covering regional news and events gets an interview with artist Eleanor James. by Tara Collins AKA Twisted T

Years ago, yours truly owned a punk rock/rockabilly/vintage and consignment clothing store called, B Unique Clothing on the “Arts Bloc” of Cookman Avenue in downtown Asbury Park. Next door to me was Heaven Art & Antiques. Whilst chatting outside our shops, Malcolm Navias, in his exquisite and cultured South African accent would greet customers by saying, “Welcome to Heaven!” while I would welcome folks to…the other option – that was darker, louder and scarier! In case you were unaware, there is gallery space on the second floor of the shop. On Saturday, April 29th, Heaven is hosting an opening reception for a solo show titled, “Unconditional” showcasing the art of Farmingdale artist, Eleanor James.

Tell me about your art background? Art School or Self-Taught?
At age 13, I remember locking myself in my small bedroom with a canvas in front of my face, listening to Janis Joplin and feeling at home in my creative space. My focus on art and design really started blossoming from then. Before going to Rutgers to get my degree in Landscape Architecture, I went to Brookdale and took several art classes in painting, color theory, figure drawing and 2D design where I learned skills and technique from some amazing teachers.  My work after that has been self-taught and continues to evolve through a lot of experimentation.

What brought you to create the art that you make? 
Death and Love have been the main driving factors in my work for many years. I have had the challenge of losing a lot of my dear friends and family members to drug overdoses and suicides. Being introduced to this kind of loss at a young age made life seem fragile and temporary. There have been many times for me, and all of us, when we have a choice in life: to fall into the pain and darkness or to find the beauty and carry on. On some days the darkness creeps in and tries to take over. My work reflects this fight within me and within us all to stand up over and over again, day after day, to find the light and the magic in this world.

“Unconditional” is the word I have chosen to reflect this never-ending battle of love and loss. My work shows this juxtaposition of dark and light and presents the challenge within us all to love ourselves and one another.

What is your process with your art making?
My emotions are the driving force behind my art. My process of creation usually starts with music and an itch of sorts. I lock myself into my studio and invite my dear friends to join (Cat Power, Radiohead, Chopin, T-Rex, Velvet Underground, etc.). I work in watercolor and ink or acrylic and ink mostly and have two differing processes for each. Similarities of the two mediums include setting down my base tone, often yellow ochre, and sketching out the concept. Backdrops often consist of calmness, soft landscapes and an ease of movement. This portion of my painting sometimes takes on a life of its own. There is a freedom here that isn’t planned or set to a reference. It’s an expression of mood and rhythm.
I then move on to my subject which is often a skeletal or botanical study and requires extreme focus and precision. Knowing how and when to apply control and when to apply a lack of control is paramount in creating my pieces. I appreciate both parts of the process, just as I try to appreciate the ebbs and flows of life. Some pieces will be created in a few hours (watercolors) where some of the larger acrylic pieces can take years to finalize. I find joy in it all and will not allow anything to take away from my love of creating art. Art is MY space to bare my soul, to laugh, cry, shout and scream.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the contrasting energies of the earth. I am inspired by a delicate wind or raging tornado, a delicate beam of sunlight or scorching desert heat. I am inspired by all of nature in its power and wonder.

What would you like to see happen in the Monmouth County art community?
Since I am a Landscape Architect by trade, I am pretty new in the art world. I thought working with seasoned contractors was hard, but it seems easy in comparison to emerging in the art world. It’s overwhelming and can at times seem very closed off.  I am very happy when I see galleries (like Heaven) that create opportunities for emerging artists! It’s so great to hear that we have high level artists involved in juried shows. I would love to see more of that in Monmouth County! I would also love to see galleries engage and offer local residencies to our native folk and to see the community work together to promote one another.

Eleanor’s art can be found on: