Sculpture Professor Richard W. James Wins 2019 Chrysalis Award

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – For newly arrived Assistant Professor of Art Richard W. James, crafting sculpture usually begins with a found object and an idea. It could be a pair of boxing gloves or a boat motor or a lap harp, but each project has its own evolution as it develops. For his intricately detailed mixed media oeuvre, James has been named the 2019 Chrysalis Award recipient.

Established in 2016 by the James Renwick Alliance, the Chrysalis Award is meant support emerging artists who demonstrate excellence and a commitment to artistic innovation. Winners receive an unrestricted $5,000 award to be used for future works of art. James was named the sole recipient of this 2019 award due to his unique vision and voice.

“I was very excited, honored, and humbled to be the recipient of an award at this level,” James said.

James is in his first semester in the Department of Art and Design at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He teaches a Ceramics I course for beginning students and an Anatomical Figure class for senior level art majors. 

“Everyone in the Art Department has been kind, courteous, and extremely helpful to myself and others – I feel very fortunate to be working here,” he said. “I think that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi achieving the status of R2 Doctoral University – High Research Activity by the Carnegie Commission of Higher Education is an enormous step forward and something I was very excited to join.”

James crafts large and complex sculptures out of clay, found objects, and more. His surreal work is inspired by his childhood in rural Tennessee, where he learned his skill set. In 2001, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Tennessee. In 2016, he received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Kansas. James has been an artist in residence in places like Zhenrutang in Jingdezhen, China, and a special student in ceramics at Indiana University.

 “I use found objects associated with my rural culture to represent the various bits of influence and information that have shaped my outlook. Incorporating materials and processes that I associate with the informative years of my life is the most effective way for me to question the cultural lenses given to me in those same years,” James has said in his artist statement.

 James will accept the Chrysalis Award and give a speech at the JRA Distinguished Artist Series event on Nov. 17 in Washington, D.C. Across the country, James’ work can be found in various private collections. Here, at the Island University, interested students can register for any one of his classes.

For more information on James’ works, go to