Artist Statement

Through a compendium of interdisciplinary and time-based means, my studio work attempts to embrace the empathy, emotion and memory of the human condition.

These newest in-progress works have allowed me to depart from animation and return to the human form, offering an infusion of visceral media and a new platform to investigate time and empathy. This group of new static-based portraits are collections of specific individuals that are visually 'compressed' into one hybrid image, creating a new composite of their collective identity. The only caveat is that they consider themselves to be a 'family'.

In this fashion – time, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and biological factors all collapse into one another regardless of the nature of the families’ relationships, or their perceived identities. In essence, these new portraits become a visualization of their aggregate data sets, with each family member representing with their own unique qualities and identifiers.

To capture the hybrid of each family, gesture and emotion are allowed to run rampant throughout the images, amplifying their dramatic posturing and cinematic framing in these unique superimpositions. Traditional modes of indirect painting meet technology as these images employ techniques of facial recognition, digital rasterization, camera obscura, chiaroscuro, and sfumato in their creation. It is clear that my prior research in animation has informed and influenced these new works.

The grouping of these large-scaled works metamorphosize into disarticulated narratives that attempt to recall upon the cumulative identity of each family, as time and image transition into a new visual form, representing both the individual and the families to which they belong.


JAMES BARANY is a MIAD alumni in Drawing from 1992, and earned his MFA in Drawing/Painting with an additional focus in Vocal Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1997. Barany has been a full-time member of MIAD’s Foundations and First-Year Experience department (FYE) since 2000. In the evenings, Barany performs Comprimario roles and sings as a Bass Chorister with the Grammy-winning Florentine Opera Company. These unique and separate fields within the arts, often hybridize together through Barany’s award-winning experimental animations and interdisciplinary studio work.

Barany is a former recipient of the Mary Nohl Fellowship for Emerging Artists (2005) in Time Based Media. Since 2005, his experimental animations have been screened at numerous venues and festivals including Black Maria International, Athens International, Transom Media, Humboldt International, ATHICA, Charles Allis Art Museum, Guenzel Gallery and the Wisconsin Film Festival. Largely based in empathy and memory, all of Barany’s work continues to examine and challenge theories of empathy and metacognition through direct personal experience.

Barany is an active member of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), Foundations Art Theory and Education (FATE), and the College Art Association (CAA). Prior to chairing FYE and Foundations, Barany served as Coordinator of Understanding the Visual and previously chaired both Fine Arts and 2D/4D Design at MIAD. Barany's studio is located in Waukesha at the Springs Gallery & Studios.


Inspiration (Backstory)

The following questions are intended to provide insight into the artist's process, how they got started and what inspires them.

Was there a person or event that got you started creating your art? Does that person or event continue to influence the work that you do?
Both of my biological parents played large roles in the nurturing of my creative development. Throughout my youth and between households, I could always find both of them working with their hands to make, produce, or create in some manner. They realized very early my ability to draw, and made sure I was well-stocked with paper and an abundance of other materials needed to express myself and explore my imagination. I was rarely shown how to do something, rather, they made sure I was equipped to create.

At what point did you consider yourself an artist?
I’ve always considered myself an artist. I've been told I was drawing before I could walk, so it's difficult to imagine a time prior to this that wouldn’t qualify. Creativity has been deeply encoded and nurtured throughout my entire life, in everything I do.

Who or what inspires you and why?
PEOPLE – including their complex relationships, connecting stories, defining narratives, and physical differentials. The combination of these aspects have allowed me to examine the empathy, emotion, and memory of a larger, collective anthropology. Recently several of these elements have merged together to offer a unique visualization of the qualitative data of my subjects; allowing for a unique fusion of their physical, social, and cultural attributes. All aspects of a person, from their underlying structures of anatomy to their most complex psychologies and identifiers, are utilized in conjunction to examine the whole self.

What was the first piece of art you made? Do you remember why you made it? What materials did you use and why?
From my childhood, I fondly recall a set of dual self-portraits that were created from a heat transfer process with the help of my teacher, Judy Sarasin, in 1976. I was fascinated that we pulled a print from the original drawing, which was done in thick, impasto oil pastel. I was intrigued that it was a mirror-opposite rendition of the original. They were positioned like a set of diptychs imitating a Rorschach inkblot test and created their own unique psychology. The original drawing was stark and emotive; drawn directly upon white sandpaper. The print was transferred onto fabric and was stuffed with cotton to add to the illusion of volume and dimension, creating a unique impression – a doppleganger of sorts.

Are there any programs or learning opportunities that you wish you had as a young artist?
I was completely satisfied with the access I had to creative experiences growing up in the farming community of Chilton, Wisconsin. I was encouraged to be creative on a daily basis, regardless if it was a strict lesson, explorative play, or inventive experimentation. I was not an anomaly there either; several of us went on to pursue professional vocations in art and design within a very short duration of time. We had exceptional creative programming that was valued and respected by the community. In high school, I attended a very focused pre-college art camp at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay during my sophomore summer. That experience lit a fire underneath me that still burns. In one summer, I produced more work than I had done in an entire year. It gave me the focus and grit needed to be successful with the requirements and demands of a private post-secondary art school.

What would you say to a young person to encourage their study and practice of art?
Experiment, play, explore, and learn from your mistakes! Don’t be afraid to take risks, and if everything goes wrong – don’t be too quick to judge the result. Remember that you are always your own worst critic. If you don’t like what you have made, then "remove yourself" from the situation and take a break. Doing this will hopefully allow you to see it with fresh eyes. Live in the work that you make. Only by doing this will you begin to fully understand it. Constantly learn as you continue to move forward, always building upon your own, unique experiences within the larger realm of visual culture. Lastly, and most importantly – try to understand the larger notion of "WHY" it is that you make, rather than "HOW" it is you have made something. Doing this will allow you to begin to find your own unique voice, and with hope – will allow you the ability to begin to realize what your message of creativity needs to be.