James Seawright, kinetic sculptor and ‘godfather of the inventive arts at Princeton,’ dies at 85

James Seawright, artist and professor of visual arts in the Lewis Center for the Arts, emeritus, died Feb. 12, of issues from Parkinson’s ailment at house less than hospice care in Middletown, New York. He was 85.

James Seawright

He is recognized as just one of the foremost technological artists and makers of kinetic sculpture, with works in the long lasting collections of the Museum of Fashionable Artwork, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Artwork, the Guggenheim Museum, the Princeton University Artwork Museum and other museums in the course of the environment.

After seeing Seawright’s function in the 1967 Whitney Annual, Edmund “Mike” Keeley, the Charles Barnwell Straut Course of 1923 Professor of English, emeritus, and professor of English and creative producing, emeritus, invited Seawright to occur to Princeton. He joined the college in 1974 and was aspect of the Software in Visible Arts for three many years, generating seminal improvements and expansions to the plan, housed at 185 Nassau St. He transferred to emeritus standing in 2009.

Seawright was born on May well 22, 1936, in Jackson and grew up in Greenwood, Mississippi. After earning his bachelor’s diploma in English from the University of Mississippi, he served as an operations and engineering lieutenant in the Navy. On board ships, he used his talent with devices to educate himself the fundamentals of sculpture. When he was discharged, he examined at the Artwork College students League in New York.

He also worked with audio and lights for many decades, such as serving as the technical director of the eponymous dance business headed by his wife of 62 decades, Mimi Garrard.

“As the godfather of the resourceful arts at Princeton, Jim heartily welcomed me into the family at 185 Nassau when I grew to become director of the Plan in Theater and Dance in 1993,” claimed Michael Cadden, College lecturer in theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts and interim chair of the Lewis Heart.

“The virtue I associate most with Jim is hospitality,” Cadden reported. “It’s a word now worn out by business use, but it as soon as spoke to the obligation to lengthen a welcome and a warm hearth to whoever arrived at your doorstep. He and Mimi had been popular for their gumbo-fueled gatherings at the ‘Vis Arts’ home — their residence on Financial institution Street. Jim nourished me with his fantastic cooking and fantastic guidance.”

“James Seawright was a gracious colleague whose gentle, kindly demeanor belied the feverish intellectual activity that informed his groundbreaking kinetic sculptures,” explained Paul Muldoon, the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 College Professor in the Humanities and professor of resourceful composing in the Lewis Centre for the Arts. “The actuality that all those sculptures have been ‘interactive’ is thanks in no modest evaluate to his personal gregarious mother nature. Jim Seawright was a generous guy, not only in the sizing of the parts at his famous gumbo dinners, but in his mentoring of generations of Princeton visual arts college students.”

Seawright and Emmet Gowin, renowned American photographer and professor of visible arts in the Lewis Middle for the Arts, emeritus, were lifelong mates and colleagues, usually traveling to the tropics to delight in a shared fascination in insects — a enthusiasm born of a 1997 vacation to Ecuador, in which Seawright and his wife invited Gowin to arrive together to analyze Spanish with a lady whose relatives transpired to be qualified insect collectors.

“Jim Seawright was just one of the most comprehensively smart persons I’ve recognized at Princeton, and also 1 of the couple of who retained their sense of speculate during a long and whole daily life,” Gowin reported. “Jim was also a compassionate advocate for our college students. He was often reasonable but also held out the best requirements. His southern demeanor was coupled with a generosity that characterized the spirit of 185 Nassau in the course of the 30 yrs he was director. Jim could also have had the most effective southern accent at Princeton.”

Gowin mentioned Seawright’s mastery of technology and art infused his training. When a person of Gowin’s pupils wanted to construct a duplicate of a 5”x7″ Deardorff check out camera — Seawright arrived to the rescue.

“The application experienced a classic model which the pupil copied to perfection in wooden, then folded his possess cloth bellows,” he recounted. “However, the gears and concentrate tracks had been beyond his experience. ‘That’s no challenge,’ Jim claimed. ‘I’ll make these for you. Greater still, I’ll exhibit you how to make them yourself.’ The camera was not only gorgeous but, thanks to Jim, it also labored.”

Carol Rigolot, who served as govt director of the Humanities Council from 1977 to 2013, worked hand-in-glove with Seawright for the duration of the period when the visual and executing arts systems fell below the auspices of the Humanities Council prior to the establishment of the Lewis Centre for the Arts in 2008.

“If Leonardo da Vinci had been from Mississippi, he could have resembled Jim Seawright,” she reported. “Behind Jim’s southern lilt and quiet demeanor was a genius polymath who cultivated orchids in his business office, tracked butterflies in Costa Rica, collected weavings in Guatemala, cooked scrumptious creole gumbos for his colleagues and go through libraries of publications — all in addition to making the artwork for which he was well known. A personal computer pioneer, Jim introduced science and technological know-how to the earning of sculpture. Any individual who traveled by Logan Airport, Terminal C, for many years close to the switch of our century would have observed his wall of 121 intricately louvered mirrors wherever weary passengers could revel in a kaleidoscopic fantasy.”

“I hardly ever met Jim Seawright, but he is active in my creativeness,” reported Jeff Whetstone, professor of visible arts in the Lewis Heart for the Arts and program director. “The faculty in Art and Archaeology that realized him pull me apart any time they get the chance to try to remember him fondly. I check out to think about what variety of remarkable human being could deal with this program for so a lot of decades and be so nicely liked and preserve such loyal good friends.”

In the course of his directorship, Seawright oversaw two renovations of the studios and the generation of the James M. Stewart ’32 Film Theater at 185 Nassau St. He orchestrated the transformation of position for artists operating at Princeton by introducing tenure and professorial ranks exactly where “lecturer” status experienced been the rule when he joined the University. He expanded the class offerings to consist of movie and video clip as nicely as digital images and was the 1st school member to offer you a study course in pc-assisted imagery.

In 2004, he was honored with the Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in the Humanities.

In 2009, The Lewis Center for the Arts recognized the Jim Seawright Award in Visible Arts, presented each year to a university student whose work exemplifies exceptional originality or innovation in any medium in the Software in Visual Arts.

He experienced two exhibitions at the Princeton University Artwork Museum: “Sculpture by James Seawright” in 1970 and “Four Will work by James L. Seawright” in 1993-94.

Quite a few of his former college students remembered his generous mentorship and his warmth.

“His tender southern accent and courtly strategies designed him a very quick human being to get along with in a office of large personalities,” claimed Hovey Brock, a 1980 alumnus and visible artist and author. “I took an introductory sculpture study course with him and figured out not just method but how to believe about the ‘whys’ of generating art.”

Mary Weatherford, a 1984 alumna and a painter, mentioned Seawright experienced an tremendous influence on her lifetime.

“I would not be the artist I am, had been it not for Professor Seawright’s ‘Sculpture 101,’” she reported. “In his calculated, client, Southern way, Jim taught me to use electrical power resources and saws, to establish factors, and make it come out proper. I remember Jim strolling down a short ladder experiencing ahead. ‘Like a sailor,’ he explained. My heart is crammed with gratitude for possessing analyzed with Jim Seawright.”

Photographer and 1987 alumnus Fazal Sheikh, who returned to Princeton as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Atmosphere and the Humanities and visiting professor in the Lewis Middle for the Arts in 2018-19, and is presently the artist-in-home at Superior Meadows Environmental Institute, likened the visual arts application to a family members property with Seawright at the helm.

“My everyday living was permanently altered by the atmosphere Jim established, and the extraordinary artists and mentors he assembled with this kind of care and enthusiasm,” Sheikh claimed. “I frankly see my time with Jim, and in that plan, as some of the most impactful and formative decades of my lifetime, and my improvement as an artist. Far more than 3 a long time later on, I generally conjure snippets of discussion I had with Jim, and with other individuals in the program, as a resource of solace, and to bolster my resolve to hold heading, to continue on working as an artist out in the earth.” 

Seawright is survived by his spouse, Mimi Garrard, his son James Andrew Seawright, his daughter-in-law Nicole Seawright, his grandson Samuel Seawright, his granddaughter Hayden Seawright, his sister-in-legislation Rebecca Seawright, and quite a few cousins, nieces and nephews.

Look at or share feedback on a website meant to honor Seawright’s lifetime and legacy.