About James E. Ulrich

This area is dedicated to the work and memory of my late husband, James E. Ulrich. He died in 2001, at age 51 from suicide after years of severe clinical depression.

James was an extraordinary artist, intellect and visionary thinker. The works presented reflect part of an oeuvre that includes oil paintings, pastels, graphite drawings, watercolors and mixed media. In addition to his visual artworks, James also wrote screenplays, essays and short story fiction.

Visionary Painter

James E. Ulrich (1949-2001) was an artist of tremendous emotional intellect who created visual symbols that expressed the predicament of being human and existing in the world, or as he would say, “…this is how things feel.” Intuitively drawn and conceived through the process of his studio practice, Ulrich’s work is a journey so deeply felt and personal as to become universal in its ability to resonate and connect empathetically with the viewer. The images are iconic in their presentation and the semiotics of the work enriched by the various metaphoric references and relationships depicted in his compelling compositions.

Ulrich’s oeuvre was influenced by his extensive readings in literature and philosophy as well as his own writings. Many classical and allegorical quotes may be gleaned from experiencing the work, as well as juxtapositions that question and revise that which might be initially assumed. However, the history of each work–rather than being a planned illustration of a particular concept–involved suspending his rational and erudite mind in favor of an automatic method of working and subliminal extrapolation. The images were allowed to emerge from his subconscious and trigger the emotions suggested, honestly and personally before being fixed in an artwork. There is sometimes humor, but little irony in the work. Ulrich explored his vulnerabilities and risked all in the studio in his quest for authentic expression. This level of intimate knowing was, however, far from self-indulgent. Ulrich offers us the gift of his awareness and invites us to a personal and collective dialog on life, anxiety and hope—an apt conversation that is both timeless and contemporary. The depth of his investigation is supported by his unwavering attention to the materiality of his media whether it was oils, watercolor or pastel. He studied as an undergraduate at Yale University (B.A., 1971) and the lessons learned there from William Bailey among others is evident in his consummate handling of paint and intentional use of composition to create a dramatic visual narrative–he is a painter’s painter–as well as a poignant and articulate storyteller.

Born in Minneapolis and raised in the Midwest, Ulrich lived and worked as an artist in New York City during the mid-1970’s before moving to Oregon in 1977. He realized his mature work there, influenced by the atmosphere and mystical aesthetic of the Northwest. Recurring thematic subjects such as the wayfarer, the holy fool, candles, illuminated trees, wounded protagonists and vanitas objects populate Ulrich’s canvasses like archetypes in a medieval Passion play. They are his actors in a visually stunning choreography of the duality and dependency between light and dark.” The piece is finished when there is the correct balance between despair and hope.” (Ulrich)

For additional information on the life and work of James E. Ulrich, please contact the Estate of James E. Ulrich by email at: caprariok@lanecc.edu or by phone at (541) 554-9932. Thank you.