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James Veenstra

James Veenstra '87, No such thing, woodcut, 2011

MFA, LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting

Class of 1987

"Many of the technical skills I learned at MICA and as a commercial muralist, have influenced the way I work." 

Hoffberger School of Painting alumnus James Veenstra '87 counts southwest Virginia's scenic beauty as one of his artistic inspirations. In fact, the New Mexico native describes some of his paintings as "Jappalachian," a mixed media style that takes traditional Japanese painting attributes-such as working in panels-and then adds elements like duct tape around the edges.

A teacher at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Virginia and the nearby University of Virginia's College at Wise, Veenstra said the term "Jappalachian" was inspired by his students' interest in Japanese pop culture in lieu of the regional culture. "There is a striking similarity of cloud and mist formations in the valleys here to the Japanese ‘floating world' paintings so-with my wry sense of humor-I wanted to combine the two cultures."

Besides teaching, Veenstra has worked as a muralist for the past 18 years, with works at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Harborplace in Baltimore, plus many other institutions, commercial spaces, and private residences. "Many of the technical skills I learned at MICA and as a commercial muralist, have influenced the way I work," said Veenstra, who added that studying with peers from other backgrounds and countries was one of the highlights of attending MICA.