Beautiful Response to the Despairingly Miserable: James Feld and His Art

by Nadia Kazmi

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Work (graphite on paper) by James Feld; all images courtesy of the artist

As a multimedia artist utilizing various traditional and non-traditional mediums such as copper, graphite, glass, and graphite on paper, James Feld has been pursuing art professionally for three years. Feld attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, but left after five semesters, feeling that his personality was “pretty incompatible with an academic setting.”  After a decade away from art spent working mostly blue-collar jobs, Feld had an epiphany and realized that he was repressing his artistic instinct.  He could not function without art, and so three years ago, he began to paint his first piece since leaving college and has not looked back. 

Feld finds inspiration for his art in his upbringing. His parents were anti-establishment baby boomers, which imprinted on him the whole 1960s gestalt. He learned cultural and artistic sensibilities from his mother’s record collection and old magazines. His grandmother was also an artist, who encouraged him and gave him “sketchbooks and fancy markers when the other kids had Crayolas.” He notes, “kids typically get into art because it brings them positive attention. But as an adult, my operating premise is [that] the world is so despairingly miserable that the only redemption is to make something beautiful.”

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Works by James Feld

His current collection on display for Bushwick Open Studios is an amalgamation of reactions to what he sees going on around him: culture, technology, politics—all of which form a single discipline for him. Feld is constantly striving to make sense of “the complete insanity of our post-9/11, fragmented consumer culture.” He tries to decode those perceptions in a distilled visual form. His Logos:Disorientation series transforms the universal visual language of iconography in a way that suggests the authority we lend certain institutions is not absolute. 

Setting no limits on mediums, Feld usually goes wherever a concept takes him. Sometimes the material drives the concept. For the series Stimulus and Depressants, he used materials that some might consider physically eccentric: pulverized copper and nickel, shredded dollar bills, glass vials, gelatin capsules. In terms of representational work or abstraction, Feld feels painting has no substitute. He defers to acrylic on canvas by default, but he thinks the backbone of all visual art is drawing. Thus, in between his more serious, ambitious works, Feld draws huge, Chuck-Close-like large-scale portraits using pencil.

Admitting with some embarrassment that he does know much about the Bushwick community because he is pretty insular by nature, Feld notes how the sheer amount of artists in the area can be intimidating. He finds the accelerated cycle of neighborhoods “horrific,” shifting from cheap, unknown, and affordable to artist saturated, driven by real estate, and with price-gouging, ever-tightening studio space. Such rapid shifts, Feld worries, can erase creative potential. Feld says, “Anyone who moves here to become an artist is insane. It’s like moving to the Amazon to learn ice sculpture.”

Nevertheless, for BOS’14, Feld hopes “to meet cool people who appreciate what he’s doing.” He adds, “Positive encouragement sustains [him] more than anyone can understand. A sale just pays a couple of bills.” His recommendations for people attending BOS’14 is “to stay away the large studio buildings…There’s so much great work in the isolated, out-of-the-way spots. The intimacy of the smaller spaces fosters an environment more conducive for connection.” Feld suggests that visitors save “having to deal with the crowds for the after-parties.”

Feld’s studio is located at the ambiguous intersection of Bushwick, East Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, which is also two blocks from Ridgewood. Describing it as “that destination in the desert where you can stand in four states at once,” Feld usually just says “it’s near Pumps strip club” when giving directions to his studio. When asked about his future plans, Feld jokes that his lease is up, so he will “probably stalk Robert Longo or Raymond Pettibon until the restraining order appears on ArtInfo.”

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After BOS’14, Feld will be working on new projects so this is the last chance to view his work for a while; his studio is located at 1013 Grand Street #28 and will be open Saturday—Sunday, May 31—June 1, 12—7PM