• 55°

Artist spotlight
James Conner cites religion, music as his major influences

By By Elizabeth Hall / special to The Star
Nov. 3, 2002
James Conner believes he was born to be an artist.
He began drawing before he was old enough to attend school. But art supplies for a black sharecropper's son in rural Noxubee County were often hard to come by.
However, Conner persevered driven by an inner urge to express through his art what his mind's eye saw.
While still in high school, he enrolled in a correspondence art course, and, shortly after, received his first commission $5 for a pastel portrait of a poodle.
After graduation, Conner served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
These darker paintings provided the central theme to Conner's master's thesis show at the University of Mississippi, which he entitled "War To War."
The show was received well, but Conner said he has mellowed in his subject matter since then.
Artistically, Conner has returned to themes from his childhood as the celebratory subjects of his paintings. Religion plays a major part in his work.
Music is also a central theme, and with good reason: his father played blues piano.
With two children of his own, plus a niece and nephew, Conner stays busy chauffeuring the children to piano and soccer lessons. It's only in brief intervals that he gets a chance to indulge in his beloved acrylics.
Although he accepts commissions, Conner is always anxious to return to his own ideas.
Conner's work is exhibited in galleries throughout the Southeast, including Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Atlanta. He is an honorary member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black World War II pilot squadron to face aerial combat.
His work will be auctioned at Bonnie Busbee's Art Frame and Gallery from 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Nov. 7.