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James L. Seawright, Edit Profile

educator , sculptor

James L. Seawright,, American sculptor, educator. Recipient Theodoron award Guggenheim Museum, 1969, American Academy Arts and Letters Art award, 1997, Lifetime Achievement award Mississippi Institute Arts and Letters, 2003, Howard T. Behrman award for distinguished accomplishment in humanities Princeton University, 2004; Graham Foundation Advanced Study in Arts fellow, 1970.


Seawright,, James L. was born on May 22, 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi, United States. Son of James L. and Josephine (Power) Seawright.


Student, University of South, 1953-1954;student, Delta State College, 1954-1955;Bachelor in English, U. Mississippi, 1957;postgraduate, Art Students League of New York, 1961-1962.


As a boy, he discovered machine tools at a friend’s house, which launched his lifelong love of making objects by hand. Later, when serving in the United States Navy, he pursued every available opportunity to work with new tools and materials, gravitating toward the machine shop on his ship and the hobby shops on the base, where he made furniture. When he moved to New York in 1961, Seawright prowled Canal Street for the electronic parts that proliferated after World War II. Inspired by the Bauhaus movement, which he said, “was doing revolutionary things with light even before the war,” he realized that he could “use modern electronics and controlled technology to apply to sculpture.” Seawright became a pioneer of interactive sculptures, using mirrors and electronic components in his work.

Mirror XV, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, is an example of this phase of his work. He started teaching at Princeton University in 1969 and served as acting director and then director of the Program in Visual Arts from 1975 to 2001. He is recognized as a pioneer of kinetic, electronic sculpture.

The Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown, Ohio), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri), the Neuberger Museum of Art, (Purchase College, Purchase, New York), the New Jersey State Museum (Trenton, New Jersey), the Rose Art Museum (Brandeis University), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York City), the University of Michigan Museum of Art (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and the Whitney Museum (New York City) are among the public collections holding works by James Seawright.


  • Other Work

    • Assistant to choreographer, Henry St. Playhouse, New York City, 1962-1963, special effects, technical consultant, Mimi Garrard Dance Company, New York City, since 1964. Sculptor represented in permanent collections, Museum Modern Art, New York City, Whitney Museum, New York City, New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, Guggenheim Museum, New York City, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, others. Public commissions for SEA-TAC International Airport, Seattle, Logan International Airport, Boston.

      Also private collections.


Served with United States Navy, 1957-1961. Member American Abstract Artists, Phi Delta Theta.


Married Mabelle M. Garrard, June 22, 1960. 1 child, James Andrew.

James L. Seawright,

Josephine (Power) Seawright,

Mabelle M. Garrard

James Andrew Seawright,