Working from Life
Jim Phalen earned a BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and an MA and MFA at the University of New Mexico; upon graduation winning the Raymond Jonson Prize for excellence. Phalen has taught at Bowdoin College, NY State University Buffalo, the University of Washington, Cornish College of the Arts, and the University of Puget Sound. He has received a Pollock/Krasner Grant of $15,000. Phalen had a one-person exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. He has been awarded a Ballinglen Artist Residency in county Mayo, Ireland, and is represented by the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, CA and the Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, TN. His work has been published in New American Painting and reviewed in the New York Times.
As a representational painter, I work from life whenever possible. I enjoy the back and forth, the push and pull of interacting with a living subject. My subject matter has concerned itself with interiors and still life, specifically how nature is commodified in contemporary culture. I suspect these interests will expand and grow as new visual possibilities present themselves in Italy. As a younger artist, I chose subject matter that was quite direct, even confrontational, a severed sheep’s head or a horse’s leg for instance. An artistic influence was Jusepe de Ribera. My more recent work has softened with age. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest I have used fish (salmon and trout mostly) as vehicles for my artistic interests. I have traveled in Europe regularly, and I have noted a distinct difference in how food is packaged and sold, specifically the butcher shop, nonexistent in the US, is common on the streets of Rome, Madrid, or Paris. I find the European presentation of food more direct, honest, and less sanitized than in US markets. Even the term for still life is more poetic in Europe- nature morte. In Spain, the bodegon or kitchen still life has had an influence on my painting. I anticipate these concerns will inform and motivate my painting in Florence. I expect to work in a modest scale, with oil on panel. I work in layers and am interested in process. I feel that regardless of the subject matter, a successful painting is about time, material, and perception.