By Natasha Ala, for the Redoubt Reporter
Talent meeting primed and focused resolve is the backstory behind local artist James Adcox and his journey into art. When James Adcox was very young, his parents, Tom and Grace Adcox, realized their identical twin sons had an aptitude for art. James and his twin brother, Jason, both showed early signs of aptitude in visual arts, which their parents encouraged and supported, not only through childhood, but into adulthood.
“In fifth grade my parents gave my brother an acrylic painting kit and myself an oil kit as a gift and that pretty much set us on our art paths,” said Adcox of his early influences. While most young boys growing up in Texas were collecting baseball cards, Adcox was collecting Norman Rockwell cards.
At a very early age Adcox said that he was drawn to portraiture and the depiction of the person in their environment. Fascinated by the human figure at an early age, drawing was his primary focus through high school. Pen and ink, chalk, and mostly black-and-white renderings heavily influenced by comic books was the focus of his high school years in art, he said.
After high school Adcox attended Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas, where he and his twin brother took the same classes together, shared the same textbooks and studied from the same art teachers.
Attending art school in the mid-1990s, a time when most art programs had a significant focus on post-modernism, installation and experimental art is a part of art history that Adcox understands, but he said that his passion is for what he describes as seeking clarity in specification. Of depicting an individual, not just a person but an actual person in an actual setting that depicts an actual experience. Throughout his three years at Collins College, Adcox stuck true to his primary inspiration in art, which was portraiture and depicting the human experience in a realistic environment.
After the Adcox twins both showed substantial talent in the associate arts program at Collins College, their teachers and parents encouraged the brothers to pursue their talents in art beyond college.
James Adcox found himself lured to Alaska by stories his father had told him of journeys to Alaska while he was in the Air Force. He made several summer journeys to Alaska, spending the summers working in Salcha, near Harding Lake, before transitioning to life in Fairbanks. He spent six years living in Fairbanks and working at a local art store while continuing to pursue his art.
Adcox recalls, with great enthusiasm, the day he had two paintings on exhibit in Fairbanks when one sold to the Museum of the North in Fairbanks and the other to the Rasmuson Foundation for the Anchorage Museum.
“It’s such an amazing feeling of validation to have these portraits that I greatly cherished being purchased by these museums,” Adcox said,
After leaving Fairbanks, Adcox spent another six years living in Nome, which proved to be a significant turn in his artistic development. While living in Nome, Adcox studied with art professor Autumn Falls, at University of Alaska, Northwest Campus. Falls is an accomplished portraiture artist who had studied with some of the greatest American portrait artists in history. This proved to be a fortuitous opportunity in Adcox’s artistic development, as he learned the technical skills to help enrich his artistic ability.
Adcox was greatly inspired by the people and culture he experienced while living in Nome. This inspiration is very evident in the many intimate portraits he painted while living in Nome, and continues to paint now in Kenai. While in Nome, Adcox was given the opportunity to try his hand at painting large-scale public art murals commissioned by the Bering Strait School District for the schools of Teller, Brevig Mission, White Mountain, Unalakleet and St. Michael.
Inspired by the work he saw in museums at a young age, Adcox wanted to express his work on a larger scale for the viewer, although he admits he still has a preference for working on canvas or linen.
Adcox has been living and working in Kenai now for two years and feels he is constantly seeking to find the balance between art, work and family. Fortunately for Adcox, his wife is also a supportive artist who helps make arrangements in their life between juggling kids, work and mutual schedules. They complement each other well and continue to make art happen in this busy time and space in their lives.
Adcox is truly a gifted artist whose work would certainly stand up prominently alongside any contemporary leading artist. Perhaps someday Adcox will seek out more prominent artistic venues beyond Alaska, but in the meantime it is a pleasure to have him amongst our artistic community, enriching us all with his inspiration and insights through portraiture.
Natasha Ala has a bachelor’s degree in art and serves on the board of the Kenai Peninsula Art Guild. Ala also is the executive director of a Kenai Peninsula nonprofit organization.