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Jim Graham

Published June 27, 2017


Jim Graham’s paintings are most often recognized for their thin layering of imagery and intense chromatic surfaces. Grahams work relates to a group of contemporary painters opting for a more varied image making process that devalues the importance of a singular object and focuses on creating new combinations within a rich visual society. As a result, the images fluctuate nimbly between historical norms of representation and abstraction allowing for a more immediate response to a fresh and active present.

Graham received his MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BFA from Florida State University. His paintings have been exhibited in both independent art galleries and academic institutions throughout the country including recent shows at the Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans and the Sella-Granata Gallery at the University of Alabama. He has also been a visiting artist and lecturer at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. He was a 2015 Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Grant nominee and a 2017 State of Louisiana Research Grant recipient.

 Q & A

What have you been doing since graduating from FSU?

I am currently on a four-year moving cycle. After leaving Tallahassee, I spent four years in Chicago, then four in New Orleans. My wife (Laura Tanner Graham) and I are both artists with independent studio practices. We are both dedicated to our individual disciplines and try to make decisions that will show growth for both of our professions. We found New Orleans to be a particularly vibrant community that supports its emerging/mid-career artists. Shortly after accepting a position at Southeastern Louisiana University as the Painting Area Coordinator and Full time Instructor, I was offered representation by Cole Pratt Gallery. Laura also found representation through the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery that led to several subsequent shows of importance. Things change quickly, but I feel comfortable labeling myself a New Orleans based artist. Laura was just offered an Assistant Professor position at the University of Arizona. While we will both be moving to Tucson, I plan on keeping one foot planted in New Orleans.

What did you learn at FSU to get you there?

In the years immediately following my BFA at Florida State, I found myself closely following the advice/recommendations of faculty that I trusted. Anne Stagg recommended University of Illinois for Graduate school, and both Laura and I were fortunate to have been accepted into the program. While I was studying at UIUC, Judy Rushin was invited as visiting artist, further bridging the gap between my BFA and MFA programs. Carrie, Lillian, and Mark have helped tremendously along the way and continue to do so. It is only within the past few years that I truly feel as though I am able to start returning the favor (largely as an instructor) by helping undergraduate students at SELU to find their way beyond graduation. It took a while for me to feel enough momentum in my personal career to be comfortable giving advice as to what might be in the best interest of other artists. Professionally, I also feel as though the artist community that Laura and I were fortunate to find in Tallahassee, Chicago, and New Orleans has become large enough to where it is building on its own momentum. Exhibitions, residencies, and other artist opportunities get shared amongst the community and we are genuinely excited to see the careers of our colleagues doing so well.

What advice would you give to art students?

I stress to my students the importance of being actively engaged with artists beyond the required academic classes. Especially as an undergraduate, there are opportunities to contribute to practices outside of your own – both with faculty and other students. Find those opportunities and put your personal practice on the backburner for a weekend. It is too easy to become consumed in your own work and not take the time to invest in the folks around you.