Alabama artist Jim Neel graduated with an MFA from the University of Alabama in 1973 and then worked freelance as a photojournalist covering wars in South America. His photos appeared in US and international publications. In parallel, he worked as artists in sculpture and drawing.In 2008, he participated in the Arts/Industry residency at Kohler where he created “Babel” – a body of work comprising 50 chimpanzees going to battle representing mankind’s compulsion going to battle. Currently, elements of this major sculptural installation of a ghostly military force are on display at the new Kohler Experience Center in New York, City. Jim loved the John Michael Kohler Arts Center residency program in the Kohler factory so much that he returned in 2016 a second time. He cherished the close collaboration with the factory workers and even became friends with some of them. During this residency, Jim focused on producing children’s toys in the size of the kids who would have played with them.Upon a closer look, one observes that many of the dolls are broken. This is Jim’s way of expressing his concerns for our surroundings and what is happening in the world. Specifically, this body of work stems from impressions he gained during a trip to the Turkish Syrian border where he met children refugees from Syria. The slip cast, vitreous sculptures trigger a response in the viewers to stop and think.Pieces from Jim’s exhibition “Echoes along the Syrian Border” namely “Ghost in the Field No. 8” and “Excavation” are now in permanent collections of the University of Alabama Department of Art and Art History and respectively the Huntsville Museum of Art.
Sources: some photos are courtesy of Jim Neel’s FB page.