James Nawara

James Nawara


James Nawara, M.F.A., University of Illinois, Professor of Art in Drawing and Painting. Primarily a landscape painter, Professor Nawara is interested in the effects of human activity on landscape. His images often suggest a momentary balance between human endeavor and other natural forces. Recent exhibitions included Affected Environments: Post -Industrial Visions by Michigan Arts, a national traveling exhibition; Water, a group exhibition at the Michigan Gallery; and a two-person exhibition at the Dennos Museum Center (Traverse City, Mich.). His work is represented in numerous collections nationwide, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Art (Boston), Cleveland Museum of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown, Ohio), The National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC), the National Museum of Warsaw (Poland) and Bradford City Art Gallery (England).

"Night Garden" (1998) Watercolor, 32" x 44"
Nawara's current work involves making paintings of urban and rural landscape subjects. The images are based on real places in Michigan and elsewhere. The work begins outside on location but the paintings are completed over very extended periods in the studio. While his compositions represent actual places, they are interpretations which may reflect changes in light and atmosphere over time. Observation, memory and imagination are compiled as the detailed images slowly evolve. Essentially, Nawara sees his paintings as formal, abstract organizations of shape, color, light and space.

"Cherry Creek, February" (1999) Oil on panel, 16" x 20"
Cherry Creek, February was begun on an overcast winter day at a friend's property in rural Michigan. With the temperature in the mid-thirties and occasional snowflakes falling, the painting was "blocked in" outside, on location. Nawara generally is not interested in grand or pristine landscape subjects but prefers those showing the structures and traces of human endeavor. The subtle color differences of the three largest tree trunks, a homemade bridge and the contradictory muddy pea soup color of "Cherry Creek" held his interest in this composition.

"Monument" (2001) Oil on linen, 30" x 40"
The painting of Monument was based on a 15-minute pencil sketch done on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The rapidly changing light of a sunset illuminated this odd monolith. This solid block of concrete is the only remnant of the Empire Lumber Company, which closed after a fire in the early 1900s. It once served as the base for a 26-blade gang saw. To Nawara, it was a momentary glowing enigma. As he drew rapidly, the moon rose above the trees, perfectly. The painting is as much about memory as observation. Two years later, his sketch became this painting's subject.