In Search Of Multi Dimensions and the ART of James McDemas
A THREE-PART STORY
The email came as a forward from the Chief Editor of the Culver City News; would you like to take this assignment? The story at the time seemed like the usual entertainment piece easy to do.
We live in Los Angeles, second largest city in the country and a major player in the capitals of entertainment. Upon a closer read of the email, in fine print, I saw the name Carolyn McDemas, the mother of a local although legendary dimensional artist, James McDemas, had called the paper wanting to tell James’ story, James McDemas had so much talent, and on so many different levels.
It is a surprise that he could express all of it in just one short lifetime. On August 3, of this year, James would have been the tender age of 48.
Carolyn has set a private party for that day in his honor. This wonderful mother and guardian of rights had something deep and profound to say because she had seen talent at its best. McDemas had staked a claim to fame with an original piece he called, ART. The Los Angeles Times featured ART on numerous occasions and MONA plans to purchase it. ART appeared in the videos of famous hip-hop artist like David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, and Flo Rida, in 2012.
Celebrities Brad Pitt, Angelino Jolie, and Tom Ford had begun to make James McDemas, the go to for unique and flawlessly produced pieces. Up until that moment, there was no mention of James in my world, I had recently broken into the art world from a selfless place of a child come home.
Not knowing or caring for that matter. This story would prove to be emotionally stimulating and provide and entirely different view. Carolyn, as she politely asked to be called, gave me the rundown on the many dimensions of the McDemas collection.
Upon hearing her speak, I could not help but wonder if she herself had extended a special brand of talent to the McDemas boys, James and Sam. We talked about her finding photographer Larry Underhill, who is a perfect fit to shoot the many visceral and colorful shades of James’ work. Larry and James had become friends by chance and as fate would have it, Underhill had the eye to capture the purest essence of an original McDemas piece.
A few of James’ closest friends rescued me in my search for answers as they spoke openly and honestly about how they came to know this talented individual. According to Carolyn, James exhibited from childhood a tremendous ability to see art in everything. He was quite the organizer, the planner and brilliantly adaptive at gathering what to most would be local rubbish and making it functional.
His private collection of the goodies that little boys love included memorabilia of Los Angeles, neon light fixtures, toys, original castings and vintage clothing. www.mcdemas.com/biohtml. With a mind already pointed towards success, James instinctively knew how to polish up a piece of metal, turning it from scrap to a table, a frame, or some other identifiable relic. Friend, entrepreneur, and sometimes play dad, Ralph Herman describes a young James, “Tino (James’ father) bought him over to do some work for our original ranch home site. James was meticulous with his work no matter what it was. I was the first person to see what James was attempting to accomplish with his first major piece he called, ART.
He had to be around 16 or 17 and rode a crummy rusted bicycle he had purchased for around $10.00, if I recall correctly, he biked all the way from Santa Monica to my home on the Tarzana Ranch. In his backpack, was the first basic concept of a one-piece aluminum rocking chair.
He had produced an initial model in steel, crudely welded although showing adequately what he had in mind. We sat on our patio, discussed for several hours the making of this piece and included conversation on the philosophy of being an artist.
We talked refinement, from his concept, not mine. He purchased his first car at this time. He had dreamed of owning, an impressive green BMW. More importantly, at our next outing, he brought with him the second model of the rocking chair he had envisioned before, but this model had taken on substantial refinement.
We discussed the car, which he saved money for from an early age and the rocking chair. He had obtained quotes to produce the chair. One of the most impressive events I attended at the invitation of James was in Santa Monica on Main Street where he was an exhibitioner in a gallery with several pieces. Those pieces included the rocking chair, and an ironing board converted to a chair that was magnificent and carried out in perfection. In later years, I would invite James and his girlfriend to MOCA.
James and I seemed to like the same kind of art and gravitated towards pieces that had more of an interest to us than they did to others. For some reason he would disclose his ideas to me and no one else either through lack of trust or some other understanding.
I attended more art shows that James was featured in. They ranged from work at the neon art museum MONA to small community events. For a number of years, he was fairly sufficient working at “Marmol Redziner”,producing everything from light fixtures, door handles, cabinet knobs, you name it, James could produce it and with perfection”.
James used a lot of Blues and vibrant Reds in his creations.
This is the end of Part I of a three-part story. Part II we discuss James in NEON.