AFA: To sum up your resume: you are a digital, installation, light artist and painter. Your academic experience both as graduate and professor are extensive. The digital works you create contain heavy use of alteration techniques, especially of light and color. What essentially caused you to devote your life to the study of light and all of its related properties?
James Long: Essentially I wanted to do what no one else was doing I had no idea it would be so addicting the study of an unknown entity. As one architect explained upon reviewing my work “you are rendering what is not there”. I always wanted to be an artist, a painter or sculptor when I first attended college that changed I tried my hand at industrial design; furniture and product design I did like the way ID taught problem solving on a grand scale it was a breath of fresh air, it was wide open. Every teacher would encourage students to invent something figure how to make it work. After college I took courses in lighting that opened a new world of expression color balance and mathematical equations to assess the correct amount of light for a given space. And it keeps changing with the invention of new light sources. And as I look around at all of the installation from around the world where light has influenced the artist I can’t believe I am one of the contributors of this artistic movement.
AFA: Your body of work deals mostly with exterior architecture and portraiture. Why do these subjects help express your interpretation of color and light? James Long: I don’t think that exterior architecture and portraiture are different, they are both obvious choices given the complexities of shade and shadow it can be ominous or foreboding or auspicious I get to play off of the internal content of a concept using color and light unlike the expected use of either one. Things you want to know about each are can be achieved in the observation of angles and composition where the light promises to go or ask what color is expected. What would it feel like to love a city or a woman that you may die for? Now show me the color and the light of that feeling and we are getting closer to where I am.
AFA: As a digital artist, what are your favorite Photoshop techniques? James Long: I scratch at the surface with many of the techniques at my disposal adding then subtracting. Firstly layer is one of the most important aspects to work with and one of my favorite tools it reminds me of distant memory a shadowy mass of shared elements that we are not able to pin point. I could have 30 layers and produce nothing or I could have 3 layers and produce an unimaginable image. You have to love that sort of complexity. Secondly filter the uncompromised detail the beginning of the unknown or the end of the story. I especially love that time when you think what would happen if I add this or that hours of contemplation makes it all worth doing what I do.
AFA: Explain to the reader the story behind the creation behind “Surf Silo”, a proposed installation. What would you like the viewer to take away from a work of art like this?
James Long: In actuality this project began (inspired by) with Nancy Holt’s “Sun Tunnels” in the Utah desert as part of the Land Art movement. I thought it would be fascinating to safely experience the inside of an ocean wave. The first of these structures were lying flat open at either end with projection of the ocean waves/curls on the inside and outside. On a trip to the northern New York State there were abandoned silos I thought it would work just as well to turn the structure upright. Has this concept developed I added sound and the mist of seawater. The fact is it could be a number of other sensations as well I proposed ie; volcano eruption, tornado winds or an avalanche. These sensations could be exhilarating something that has not been experienced by the general public, the power of nature.
AFA: What role does your art have in our current times?
James Long: I’m still a teacher at the core I am an artist telling stories about a hopeful future. As it always has, it will change the way we perceive the world around us. Art is always at the center, art is used to make life-changing differences in those who practice and those who take part in observing. Why do it in any case if you are not optimistic? Follow Up Question: There are many reasons to create art without an optimistic goal or motivation. The role of art in general and the role of a teacher seem clear, however.
AFA: There are many reasons to create art without an optimistic goal or motivation. The role of art in general and the role of a teacher seem clear. However, what are specifically qualities in your work which reflect the age we are living in?
James Long: Through experimental research provided by technology I am able to gather images that reflect the world around me. This carefully selected material is filtered, instantly, through the use of digital layering incorporating texture, color, intensity, composition and a thorough knowledge of lighting. I make images of my lifelike world, I think it’s expected of the work that I do and it is all touched by technology. Technology has changed the way I view the world. I’ve become a technozombie living in a bubble, staring at images in a constant stream of thisinformation is all too important to ignore. Technology drives me crazy and I cannot get enough. So I settle in to make images of serenity, to my way of thinking, odd female faces or strange public spaces have become the norm in my bubbleworld. Upon completion, these images are sent out (via technology) in one courageous click of the keypad. As I wait, in the dark, for a response, this is the age we are living in.
AFA: To aspiring artists and students, what advice would you give them?
James Long: Find what you love, find a patron saint and get to work. If you fail keep working and if you are successful keep working and never stop. Never. Don’t be afraid of failure use it it can be better than success in that it will teach you much more about your work and your resilient self so get dirty and have fun.