James Kelsey (sculptor)
Memories in Blue (2006), display at the Tacoma Police Department
November 14, 1964|
|Movement||Abstract expressionism, Modernist|
James Edward Kelsey was born on November 15, 1964 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and moved to Renton, Washington in 1965, where he spent his childhood until age 13. In 1977 his father was hired by Bell Helicopter and moved his family to Tehran, Iran. James was first exposed to the concept of abstract art while living in the Middle East and experiencing the abstract nature of Islamic art.
His family left Iran in 1979 due to the onset of the Iranian revolution.
James discovered his love of creating art in junior high school and experimented with photography, wood shop, ceramics, and a short course in metal casting. In high school he experienced the death of his father which culminated in him dropping out of school halfway through the 10th grade. He immediately attained his G.E.D. and married at 17 years old, a marriage which lasted 6 years.
At 18 years old, he became a firefighter in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Aviano, Italy. While living there, he explored much of the art and architecture of Northern Italy, Venice, and Pisa. This is also the first time he met men and women working as full-time artists both has painters and sculptors.
In 1987, he was honorably discharged from the Air Force. Instead of producing art, he enrolled at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington to pursue his love of flying. He was awarded a commercial pilot license and continued on to Eastern Washington University where he graduated with honors and a degree in Business and Interpersonal Communication.
After College, James moved back to Seattle, Washington with his partner and soon-to-be wife, Misty Devin whom he had met in College and took a variety of jobs (divorced in 2006). In 1996 they moved to Everett, Washington for his partner’s job and while there wrote his yet-unpublished novel, The Last Icon. In 1998 they again moved, this time to Bremerton, Washington.
Upon arriving in Bremerton, James decided to finally ignore much of the advice he had heard throughout his life and pursue his love of art with the goal of making it a career. He enrolled in the welding program at Olympic College. By the end of the two-year program, he had created four significant sculptures including “And He Offered the Moon To the Sky”, his first piece of public art which can currently be seen on the Olympic College campus.
While still taking classes, he secured a job with a local metal fabrication company as their sole welder and honed his skills while continuing his classes. Two years later, he quit his welding job to work for 3 years for a local stone sculptor, Will Robinson. There James served as the fabricator for Robinson’s bases and fountain basins as well as learning stone working skills. This was also Kelsey’s introduction to the business side of the art world as he accompanied Robinson to his galleries and installed sculptures in clients’ homes.
In 2002, James built his own studio on his property in Port Orchard, Washington.
"Memories in Blue" (executed in 2005-2006) is the primary sculpture in a memorial installation for the Tacoma Police Department. Also in this installation is "For All They Gave", a bronze and granite piece with the names, dates, and stories of each officer who died in the line of duty. Connecting these to sculptures is a 100-foot glass line titled, Thin Blue Line.
"Tsunami in Steel" (2009), is Kelsey’s first international sculpture. It is sited as a private / public collaboration between Am-Pri Homebuilders and the City of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. Inspired by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Kelsey was unable to let the thoughts and images out of his mind. His mother lives along the Pacific Ocean and in creating this sculpture he was able to settle his mind and move on.
- Baker, Travis, The Kitsap Sun, Sculptor's Work Now Installed at Grounds (Kitsap Sun, March 25, 2006)
- Held within the collection of Utah Division of Arts & Museums, Bridgerland Applied Technology College, Eye of the Beholder, IV
- Eldridge, Keith, KOMO News 4, Seattle On Air News Report May 25, 2006
- Davison, David R, Tacoma Weekly, Know your art: Tacoma Police Memorial Project, June 1, 2010
- LeVan, Patricia, The Good Men Project, Beginning Again Once More March 28, 2014