Laura James, photo by Janis Wilkins
Laura James has been working as a professional artist and illustrator for over twenty years. In addition to painting sacred images from various religions, she portrays women, families, and scenes of everyday life; blending intricate patterns, text, vibrant colors and sometimes surreal imagery into what she calls “art for the people.”
Over 100 million copies of the bible are sold each year.
Three Scene From the Garden
In 1631, a publishing company published a Bible with typo,'Thou shalt not Commit Adultery.' Only 9 of these Bibles known a the "Sinners" Bible are in exist today.
Women are more likely than men, older people are more likely than younger people, and people of African ancestry are more likely than any other races to read the Bible.
The Good Shepherd
The heavily abridged ‘Slave Bible’ removed passages that might encourage uprisings. Though tools like the Slave Bible may have been used to repress rebellion, it did not stop enslaved people in the Caribbean from fighting for their freedom.
The Sheep and The Goats
The Bible takes place across the continent of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
At the heart of Laura James’ work is the desire to share something with the world- a story, a feeling, confidence, beauty.
“I am fascinated by the idea that people can see what I see in my mind’s eye, and blessed that I have the ability to show them,” she says.
A self-taught painter and illustrator, James has been working as an Artist for almost thirty years. As a child, she spent much of her free time at the Brooklyn Public Library, the only place her parents would let her go on her own. Here she explored her passion for literature, photography, and later painting. Her African and Caribbean-American heritage, and a love of stories, design, and color, are all elements that have always been present in her work.
Painting in two styles she refers to as ‘sacred’ and ‘secular,’ James separates and combines the sacrosanct and the ordinary, and has created a diverse body of work that is her own.
Originally captivated by the Ethiopian Christian Art form, James’ sacred work employs this ancient way of making icons, and expands on the collection of stories traditionally painted in this style. James is pleased to help black people see themselves in their sacred texts, in African religions and Christianity, a place where racialized people have curiously been excluded in the west. To that end, James was delighted to illustrate The Book of the Gospels lectionary, published by Liturgy Training Publications in 2000; the book is used worldwide by numerous Christian denominations and her religious art is at the forefront of the movement toward a more inclusive representation of Biblical figures.
The youngest of eight sisters, her mother a homemaker, domestic worker and nanny, James’ secular work reflects her life, a world surrounded by women. She proudly paints women strong, majestic, and fragile, adding beauty to mundane aspects of life.
James’ ongoing work, The Nanny Series, abstracts images from her childhood with the use of surrealist painting and postcolonial theory to address issues of gender, work, and motherhood in the lives of domestic workers living in New York City.
Represented by Bridgeman Images, the world's leading specialists in the distribution of fine art for reproduction, James’ work can be seen in hundreds of publications from textbooks to film worldwide. James has illustrated two children’s books, both written by Olive Senior and published by Tradewinds Books, Anna Carries Water (2014) and Boonoonoonous Hair! which was released in 2019. Both stories are centered on empowering young black girls, and building a foundation of self-love within them.
In 2014 James founded the BX200: Bronx Visual Artists Directory, a curated website for some of the Bronx’s best visual artists. In addition to showcasing portfolios from each artist, BX200 has expanded from being online to presenting art exhibitions and professional development workshops around New York City. James is invested in the Bronx and her community, and serves on her local Community Board.
Laura James is currently an Artist in Residence at The Point CDC, creating a mural honoring the Bronx art organization’s 25th anniversary with a 50 ft mural depicting the Hunt’s Point neighborhood in eight scenes. The piece will be unveiled in October 2019.
© 2019 Valentine Museum of Art