Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Lighting the Way
Some artists are filled with a sense of higher purpose that informs their work down to the most intricate detail. Through this “calling,” their art intentionally becomes a vehicle through which they leave a legacy that contributes to society and makes a difference in the world. Internationally renowned allegorical sculptor, James Muir, is one of those artists and he has spent his lifetime translating his deep spiritual convictions and social consciousness into profound works of art that reflect the epic nature of what Joseph Campbell referred to as the archetypal hero’s journey.
A self taught artist, his work expresses universal themes that depict the higher attributes of mankind. Allegorical Art is the term James uses to describe his art as being filled with symbolic meaning bridging the centuries from his historical military subjects to today’s social, political and spiritual commentary. His sculptures speak eloquently of duty, honor, courage and justice, but above all, truth and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
Collectors of his work have viscerally responded to its power and as a result you can find his sculptures prominently placed across the globe in both private and public collections.
He has completed over 100 sculptures to date, with over 60 lifesize and monumental sculptures placed in public locations throughout the United States and abroad. Though his pieces have found international renown placed at distinguished institutions such as the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas, West Point Military Academy in New York, U.S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley and Paul Harvey News Broadcasting Headquarters, the self-taught artist is a humble man who sees himself as someone who is helping to light the path for mankind, himself included.
“To bring light into the darkness, such is the duty of the artist. I merely perceive the seeds that have been planted since the beginning of time and attempt to nourish them,” says Muir. “My sculptures are parables in bronze of identifiable truth, both temporal and absolute, that I have been shown along the way and which are left to aid others in their own travels.” An avid student of history and philosophy, many of his pieces have depicted historic and patriotic themes.
“I strive to design the elements of my patriotic sculptures into works that capture the courage and determination of brave men and women. Not as static sculptures, but as a dynamic statement about service to humanity. The focus is not on war, but to honor the courageous quest for truth and freedom, with special emphasis on duty, honor, courage, and country.” — James notes.
In 2013, he was inspired to begin work on “Athena’s Prayer” after discussions with a female soldier, Tiffany Kravec, who served two tours of duty in Iraq. Familiar with his work,
she reached out to James with the hope that he would one day create a memorial recognizing women who had served in America’s Armed Forces. She sent him images that reflect the reality of war, the need for compassion, and its impact on women, children and all soldiers. James completed his study of “Athena’s Prayer” in 2014. The life-size piece, completed this year and to be placed in Sedona’s Jameson Park, is a piece that James personally feels pays long-due tribute to American women in recognizing their role in our Armed Services. The remarkable finished sculpture shows a modern Athena, just returned from battle with the enemies of America. Her helmet is held protecting a heart of female compassion as she looks heavenward in prayer. She symbolizes the feminine “balance” to war. Historically accurate, as are all of Jame’s historical pieces, it is designed to beg the enigmatic question of what is her prayer — the answer to be supplied by the viewer as a catharsis for helping to heal the individual, and very personal, “wounds of war.”
The themes of courage and hope are poignantly expressed in “Children,” which is part of the permanent collection of the Auschwitz –Birkenau Holocaust Museum in Poland. This touching piece depicts a little refugee girl, herself still merely a child fleeing before the storm clouds of war, giving comfort and reassurance to her own doll-child. Through it all, she reflects the uncertain innocence and trust of all little children inheriting a world not of their making, yet filled with the hope of creating a better future for themselves and for their own “war-child’s” children. James says of the piece “If ever there was a cry for world attention to the international refugee crisis, it must be heard and responded to now.” “Children” powerfully captures plight of many of the world’s children reaching out across cultures speaking to our common humanity. This moving piece was recently collected in Saudi Arabia.
Though all of his pieces carry the essence of our universal connection, his spiritual pieces strive to capture the heart of our journey awakening something in all of us — including the artist. His sculpture, “The Holy Grail,” spent a long time in what he refers to as the incubation stage. Speaking of the symbology of this stirring piece he muses, “This series has been an epiphany for me, personally, and will mark a milestone lantern along the path of my growth, both as a human being and as an artist. For centuries, mankind has sought the mystical “Holy Grail” as a material object to be found without, instead of the true spiritual “cup” that unfailingly lies within. The longest journey is the journey within.” He created the face of his life-sized “Holy Grail” as a shiny reflective surface so that when the viewer gazed at the stunning piece he or she would see themselves reflected back.
“Caduceus” majestically portrays an ancient angel of healing heralding in a new era of harmony and peace, to heal the earth and all its inhabitants with love as the master physician. Recognized internationally as a symbol of medicine, James hopes to see the “Caduceus” on all seven continents transcending individual differences to become a unifying symbol for the universal kinship of humanity and all creation in a physical metaphor representing the spiritual connection between all things. To him, this powerful piece is a lantern helping to bring the healing power of love into the earth. He says “At this critical juncture in world history, the Caduceus seems a uniquely appropriate symbol for the redirection of hatred and conflict by the staff of a higher power to produce unification, harmony and peace on earth. “Caduceus” expresses the initial spiritual flow of energy from Creator to Creation.”
In 2016, he was honored to be one of three artists commissioned by the Diocese of Phoenix to create pieces for the Chapel of the Holy Cross. His resulting 33 foot sculpture, “Christ of the Holy Cross,” will be installed in the Chapel in late March and on the 27th, the doors will be open for the public to experience this mesmerizing depiction of the living Christ. Abundant with sacred symbolism, the living christ is crucified upon the Tree of Life, depicting humanity’s journey from primal roots in the hollow depths of earthly creation to the spiritual perfection of the Holy Trinity (golden apples) at the ultimate highest level. Each subtle detail included is electrifying in the story it shares starting with the Crown adorned with 100 thorns representing the “90 & 9” plus one for the “lost sheep” found by the Good Shepherd that none shall ever be truly lost. Also here is the the golden rose symbolizing that incremental but inevitable unfoldment of perfection — as epitomized by the Christ; whose omnipresence has always been and will always be. There will be a blessing and dedication by the Archbishop of Phoenix on Thursday, April 4th at noon, and a public reception during first Friday on April 6th from 5-8pm. Currently, the maquette is available for the public to see and collect at the Chapel and at Sedona’s Goldenstein Gallery; which is located at 150 State Route 179 in Red View Plaza at the “Y.”
Story written by Mindy Mendelsohn Photos provided by James Muir
For more information on, visit www.jamesmuir.com