Like Ilchi Lee, Bronze Sculptor, James N. Muir experienced the Call of Sedona from afar. In this revealing interview, learn how Muir followed his destiny and brought his dream into reality in the red rocks of Sedona. Muir’s call not only brought him across the country from Indiana to Sedona, but also led him to his true calling. On my visit to his working Studio/Gallery in Sedona, Muir takes time away from his live model and his largest commission ever, a 25 ft. sculpture depicting Texas A&M University’s 6 core values for Kyle Stadium’s 2015 dedication. Here we interview this thought-provoking artist on his journey and his discoveries along the way.

James Muir, bronze scultor, Sedona AZ

JNM: I took a circuitous route to get here! I had a keen interest in the west and that colorful history, the whole idea intrigued me. I began to feel a calling to go west, so one day I loaded up my horses, a mare and a colt, and I moved to Texas. I went to farrier (horse shoeing) school in Mineral Wells, TX. I then decided to go further west, through New Mexico, but no place felt right, so I kept going until I ended up in Phoenix. From there I decided to head north to Wickenburg, since I had always wanted to see the cowboy life. But when I arrived, all of the guest ranches were closed, with all the hands gone to Colorado. I traveled on, through Prescott, but again, it didn’t feel right.

A friend had told me of his love of the Flagstaff area, so I decided to go there. I traveled from Prescott, down through Jerome. I thought Jerome was cool, but still not quite “me.” By now it was dark so as I headed down the hill, I had no idea about the red rocks that surrounded me. This was spring of 1979, and when I arrived in Sedona I thought, “What a wonderful, sleepy, quiet town! I knew I wanted to be in mountains, then I saw the lighted cross on airport hill as I drove in. I am a great believer in “signs,” so when I saw the cross, I thought, “This is where I’ll land.” I got a motel in the dark of night, and it wasn’t until the next morning that I saw where I was—surrounded by red rocks and all this beauty. But in the darkness of the night before, I had already made my decision, by the feel of the place that I would move and live here.

LAT: As I understand, you were not doing art at that time. What did you do to earn a living in Sedona?

JNM: Back then, you really had to earn the right to live here; I did anything and everything I could to stay. I ended up working round up at couple of ranches—I got to “cowboy.”

And you’re correct; I hadn’t yet discovered my art. I began visiting Husberg’s Gallery and developed a nice friendship with Allen and Sheila Husberg. I was knowledgeable in history and horses, so it made for nice, sharing conversation. I became increasingly drawn back to study the sculptures in the gallery. Even though I’d never had any formal art training, I started thinking, “That’s not the way I’d do that: sometimes it was a question of horse anatomy or psychology, or other things I would notice. Then I began to know intuitively that I could sculpt. I decided to get some clay and I tried it. One night, I started at 9 p.m. and by 3 a.m. my first sculpture, “Parting Shot” was roughed in.

After it was finished, I checked with the local foundry and had it cast in bronze. When I took it to Husberg’s, they bought it immediately. A few days later when I visited the gallery, there it was on display in the gallery, alongside the work of the “professional” sculpture artists!

I started a second piece, “Rescue Under Fire,” and before I’d even finished, the gallery bought it and also took a customer order for another one. About that time I worked five months at a foundry owned by Jerry Eden, He was kind enough to give me a start. It was at this time that I received some sage advice from Allen Husberg. He said, “Sculpt what you know.”

LAT: Sculpting “what you know” has produced an incredible array of subjects including your amazing horses as well as the fact that your interest in historical events has led to pieces that depict military, cavalry, and Native American Indian wars. The historical detail included in your pieces is indeed impressive!

JNM: I depict history truthfully and accurately in every regard. I became known for historical details, not just in the “details,” but in the nature of the character and emotions of what I am depicting. Emotions such as love, and courage, and everything in between. My “sage” friend Lester Levenson (The Sedona Method) once pointed out that what I am actually depicting is “courageousness—the bridge between the level where most people approach life and a more uplifting focus based on acceptance, and ultimately peace.”

LAT: You have often referred to yourself as an Allegorical Sculptor, and your pieces have many levels of meaning, both the subtle and those more obvious.

JNM: By the end of the second year of sculpting, I had already become aware that what I was doing went way beyond being a mirror of reality, and as I later learned through a quote by Bertolt Brecht, art can be, should be at a higher level, “not [merely] a mirror to reflect reality, but rather a hammer to shape it.”

Early on, in fact, at the very outset of my career, I came to increasingly recognize that through this God-given talent, I was given an opportunity, through my art, to be a messenger, helping bring light into the darkness of men’s hearts, and leave the world a better place than when I found it, in some small way. I’m a believer that talent is God’s gift to a person, what we do with it is what we give back. The only way we truly serve God is in service to others, “service to ONE, through service to ALL.”

LAT: Recalling the Sedona you encountered so many years ago and the energy of Sedona today, how has this place influenced your art?

JNM: The red rocks of Sedona have always been an ever present reminder of what true power and greatness is. This helps to keep a more balanced perspective on our individual role being played in the overall divine plan. Still, people often look for a “savior” outside of themselves, or come to Sedona in search of “something.” And the true message that can be discovered here is that the “something” you seek is within you.

LT: Last year you released a beautiful work, called “Eden’s Gate” that was sculpted partially en plein aire in a small apple orchard in Sedona. It is in this work that I personally see how you have captured the essence, both of that “something” that we seek, as well as the energy of Sedona, both strong and tender.

JNM: Yes, People can find that “beautiful garden” here. It’s true though, that we each have that Garden of Eden within. Once you have found it, you can’t just stay and wallow in the beautiful place, you have to take it out into the world. Artists in all fields find it, but with the blessing, comes the responsibility of taking your gifts out into the world at large. Then, the “by-products” of your journey, your art, can be spread out and shared with the rest of the world.

LAT: Thank You!