Michael James’ current work is focused on the creation of original digitally-developed and -printed fabrics and their integration into one-of-a-kind wall quilts. Working in his Lincoln, Nebraska studio and in the Department of Textiles, Clothing & Design at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where he serves as Professor and Department Chair, James sustains an ongoing production stretching across thirty-five years that he exhibits regionally, nationally and internationally.
Thematically, his works seek to bridge the physical and the metaphysical worlds through imagery derived from nature and the built environment. “I’m interested in the unseen world that constitutes much of the emotional and psychological spaces that we reside in a good part of the time. Using abstract constructions, sometimes with representational images, or images that occupy that ambiguous realm between the recognizable and the indeterminate, I attempt to give visual form to these metaphysical domains. I’m comfortable in dream spaces and in the malleable and fluid territory of memory, and in my work I try to reach into these psychic spaces. I hope that the work evokes in the viewer some experience of these worlds held just below the outward surface of things.”
At UNL, James teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in textile design and quilt studies, and is a Faculty Fellow of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. He earned his MFA degree in Painting and Printmaking from Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology in 1973, and his BFA in Painting from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, which in 1992 conferred on him an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree for his work in the area of studio quilt practice. In 2009 he received the University of Nebraska system’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity.
A Fellow of the American Craft Council, Michael’s work is included in numerous collections, including those of the IQSC&M, the Museum of Nebraska Art, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in DC, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Mint Museum of Craft & Design in Greensboro, NC, the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA, the Racine Art Museum, and the Newark Museum in New Jersey. He is a recipient of several National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowships, including a USA/France Exchange Fellowship, as well as grants from the Boston Artists Foundation. His work is the subject of the monograph Michael James Studio Quilts published in 1995 by Editions Victor Attinger, SA, in Switzerland, and he is the author of two classic guidebooks to quiltmaking and design, The Quiltmaker’s Handbook (1978) and The Second Quiltmaker’s Handbook (1981). He has written and lectured widely on non-traditional quiltmaking and led workshops on textile and quilt design throughout North America and in Europe and Asia.