A unique presence even among the ranks of those who are—as a rule, and in accordance with the demands of their profession—unique, James Sienna occupies an intriguing patch of earth upon the landscape of artistic greats. Notorious for his algorithmic approach to artistic creation, James Sienna works in a highly systematic and ordered manner, producing works which are at once aggressively linear and endlessly inventive, thus yielding a study in contrasts at seemingly every turn. Many productions within the James Sienna catalog are possessed of a notably mechanical appearance but incorporate into their central design a number of organic properties which seem to conflict openly with their systematized and linearly rendered construction.
This method also calls upon an element of repetition which sees identical shapes and forms appear ad infinitum throughout a given work; the effect compels the viewer to reevaluate the repeated shape based upon its placement and its variable relation to neighboring copies. In short, Sienna defies convention in a curiously structured and disciplined manner, and has enjoyed considerable (and enduring) commercial success because of it.
A product of America’s coasts both east and west, James Sienna was born in California but spent much of his early-childhood in the District of Columbia. A move back to California would see Sienna spending his teenage years in the state of his birth, but the young artist would ultimately pursue a BFA at Cornell University, which he earned in 1979. Having been exposed to life both in America’s capital and in The Golden State, James Sienna tellingly elected to remain in New York upon earning his bachelor’s degree and has been considered New York-based since that time. Though his formal training was officially at an end, the tutelages to which he would be exposed in New York City would play their own important part in the shaping of James Sienna’s career.
James Sienna’s modestly diverse (in terms of culture and geography) upbringing tells the outsider very little as to what during his adolescence would ultimately contribute to his signature artistic style. Following his formal education, however, Sienna would come under the mentorship of numerous artists with New York City’s always active creative community. During this time, Sienna would support himself in ways less aligned with his formal training than he would have preferred, namely in the framing industry, but also guarded his creative time closely and devoted spare hours to the casting of a defining artistic identity.
The combined pressure of spending daylight hours in 9:00-5:00 labor and toiling away on creative works by night would seem to have produced at its end a highly structured and nearly mechanical approach to what is a truly ingenious methodology on part of Sienna’s body of work.
James Sienna Artwork
A border of questionable legitimacy does separate the artist from the engineer. Furthermore, there exists a sort of unspoken tenet in arts of all sorts that repetition is, barring high inspiration or genius of application, to be avoided. In both cases, James Sienna successfully reproves by way of his sheer force of inventiveness the received wisdom therein. For the very essence of Sienna’s larger body of work is a sort of cold element functional engineering, itself coupled with repetitive and geometric properties which at first glance might seem categorically opposed to the abstractionism guidelines by which the work is nominally governed.
However, once one allows one’s mind to begin tracing the “pathway” of Sienna’s process within the structure of a given work, the beauty of what lies within is revealed in a manner both patiently-realized and mentally stimulating. The art of it is in the journey one’s own mental sense of wanderlust undertakes in following Sienna’s creative breadcrumbs, which themselves lead not only to a given artistic product, but in a sense to its very genesis within the mind of the progenitor.
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