James Denmark was born in Winter Haven, Florida, on March 23, 1936 into a family of artists. He was exposed to color and form at an early age by his grandmother – a wire sculptor and quilt artist, by his grandfather – a bricklayer noted for his unique custom design molds – and his mother – gifted with an intuitive feeling for design and a fastidiousness for detail which she expressed in all aspects of her life. This rich beginning is the root of Denmark’s creative expression.
He attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida on a sports scholarship. While pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Art degree, Denmark came under the tutelage of the artist and acclaimed African-American art historian, Dr. Samella Lewis, who exposed him to the great traditions and accomplishments of the African-American art movement. After graduating, Denmark moved to Brooklyn, New York, and began a career as an art teacher in the public school system.
In 1976, Denmark earned his Master of Fine Art degree at the prestigious Pratt Institute of Fine Art in New York. While at Pratt, he was nurtured by an immensely talented community of artists, and was heavily influenced by abstract expressionists Jackson Pollack, Clifford Still, and William DeKooning. The African-American masters Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Ernest Crichlow instilled in him an appreciation of his African-American artistic heritage, and he began experimenting with collage, along with his primary media of watercolors and charcoal.
Denmark has a natural affinity for the difficult and largely improvisational medium of collage and quickly developed his own unique and easily identifiable style. With brightly hand colored papers, found papers, fabric, and objects, he creates compositions that go beyond the superficial and transitory and focus instead on what is eternal and universal.
Denmark’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is in such prestigious collection as that of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. He currently lives and works in rural Yemassee, South Carolina.