James Hubin is a visual artist and designer with a studio in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia.
I grew up close to nature in rural Wisconsin, in and around a house that was full of art and music, around people who made art and other things. As a child, I knew that our house was built by my father and designed by my mother – I have an early memory of swinging a hammer, in a mostly symbolic effort to help. Making was a natural part of life. I knew that the paintings on the walls and the sculpture and ceramics were made by my mother and her father. I was given the tools and materials that allowed me to explore, as well. There was a studio for working with clay and paint, and a wood and metal-working shop. My first teachers in art were close to home.
This little world shaped my conception of the possibilities of art more than the museums and galleries that would come later. Here I was exposed to works of great beauty, depth of meaning and expressiveness. They are almost all lost, now, but I still remember them. My favorite was a bust and graceful hand sculpted by my mother. I could see that there was something powerful and mysterious in this work of unearthly beauty. I saw glimmers but did not understand a faraway life and remote wisdom at the depths of this art.
My early explorations with clay connected me to mysteries of my own, making deep impressions on me – shocking me awake from a dreamy childhood. The very first time I shaped clay was one such experience. In the studio, under my fingers, I saw a face, full of emotion form: primitive, powerful and strange. It felt completely unlike me, altogether alien to what I knew as myself – some idol of a forgotten faith, strangely familiar. Hinting of a life parallel to my own, it seemed that this was also my face. I had made it without really intending anything; I felt a mixture of wonder and fear.
Another time: It is summer now. I would dig clay for my first figural sculpture. A strong wind brushes the grasses in a nearby field, swaying the trees in the ravine below. I am wearing only shorts, my feet planted deep in the warm crumbly clay of the south-facing cliff behind our house. I notice that the light seems different this day, the colors more vibrant, an energy pulsing in the air. I know now that I have come late to this party, undressed but not underdressed. All of life is here, all that breathes, that bends in the wind and burns in the sun, whose feet or roots probe clay, standing here, our circlet now complete: praying, seeing, now celebrating all that we are.
I am interested in consciousness and spirituality, in the range of human experience beyond the limits of an apparently separate self. My work involves presenting contemplative images of the human figure, the human face, images exploring meditative states, spiritual presence, and experiences of the transcendent. The art work is directed to the person as a whole, in language reflecting natural human depths and experience: sensuous, emotional, spiritual, and energetic. I enjoy working with tangible materials and am attentive to craft, and to the sensuous surface as a carrier of meaning. I feel a kinship with the contemplative explorers and makers of religious art throughout the ages and have been especially influenced by the sacred arts of Asia.