James Robert Nelson was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 12, 1946. In his senior year at Johnson High School, James was the president of the Art Club. He won “Best of Show” at the St. Paul High School’s Art Show and was lucky to have Helen McKinney as his teacher and mentor.
While studying at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, James discovered he had an avid interest in environmentalism and multi-media. This ultimately led him to Bob Goldstein, environmentalist, and his “Lightworks” in 1966. During this period James created environments at L’OURSIN in Southampton, trade shows for Allied Chemical and Henri Bendel’s Christmas interiors in Manhattan. He then learned to make light paintings that were used in the Joshua Light Show, which among other things, did lightshows at the Filmore East. James showed his light paintings at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC in 1967.
All the while, James stayed the course of making paintings and drawings in his loft on South Street and Rutgers on the waterfront in lower Manhattan. He was studio assistant for Dan Christiansen, painter, and Michael Steiner, sculptor during this period and also worked with Jules Olitzki, Larry Zox and Larry Poons.
After seventeen years of living in lower Manhattan, James moved to a large loft in the Ironbound section of Newark NJ, where his body of work continued to grow. It was here that he learned how to render steel sculpture, create computer graphics and tend a 2000 square foot rooftop garden with his wife, Kristine.
They now live in a 200-year-old converted barn in Upstate NY. James continues to make art in the studio he built on their property as well as tend four and a half acres of cultivated garden beds and woods. He and Kristine enjoy living in closer proximity to daughter, Ursula and grandson, Tyler.