James Prosek’s paintings teem with life, presenting a diverse collection of vertebrates and deep-water dwellers. Employing biological documentation as the framework for his paintings, he untangles the web of species’ classification, forming a catalogue-like body of work. An avid traveler and researcher, his inspiration stems directly from life observation of subjects and their habitats, which span from Nova Scotia across the Atlantic and into coastal Africa. His direct observations imbed an instinctual, organic quality within the work as he wields a paintbrush, palette, and keen eye. He builds up slight strokes to precisely render animals, which radiate with crimson freckles or emerald streaks, illuminating the creamy, tea-stained paper. Instead of arranging species based on their name and classification, he explains he assembles subjects based on their “proximity, color, shape, form, and size,” often convening biologically unrelated species. Prosek revels in the resulting paradoxical composition, which is harmonious yet scientifically uncategorized, questioning our inherent desire to name, classify, and accurately organize the environment.
The Connecticut native graduated from Yale University in 1997 and currently lives and works in Easton, CT. He has exhibited in Abuja, Nigeria and Ghana, Africa, both of
which hosted Art in Embassy shows. He has also shown at The Virginia Museum of
Fine Arts, Richmond, VA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Academy of
Sciences, both, Washington, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Tanya Bonakdar
Gallery, New York, NY. His work is held in major private and public collections, including
the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson,
Wyoming; Try-me, Richmond, VA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY;
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the North Carolina Museum
of Art, among others. Beyond his artistic career, Prosek is a well-noted author and
conservationist. He has written for the New York Times and National Geographic
Magazine, and has published eleven books, many of which received national
recognition. In 2003, he received a Peabody Award for his documentary on the life of
author and naturalist Izaak Walton. Prosek co-founded World Trout with Patagonia, a
cold-water conservation organization which fundraises by selling trout-painted tshirts.
In 2012 he was awarded the Gold Medal for Distinction in Natural History Art
(Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia).