Marine life through the eyes of James Mages to show at the Shafer Gallery

May 17, 2017
Story and photo by Micah Oelze

The Shafer Gallery will host an opening reception for the exhibit “Mages’ Marine Marvels” by James Mages at 6 p.m. May 25. The show will run through July 19. The exhibit consists of dramatically stylized fish crafted in cast bronze, stainless steel, aluminum and wood surrounded by boldly patterned brilliantly colored posters.

Mages, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in Drawing from Fort Hays State University, has created a visual environment inspired by his passion for sea creatures.

In 1993, Mages took a trip to Hawaii and Guam where he spent time in the ocean snorkeling and scuba diving.

“Getting in the water and seeing all the sea life started my passion for creating marine artwork,” Mages said.

Since then, he has developed a body of work that is colorful and whimsical. Mages says that his fish are not real, or it may be that they just have not been discovered yet.

“We have probably discovered around a third of the actual sea life we have in our oceans,” he said. “I watch these documentaries where they discover these new creatures. I love seeing how awesome and colorful they are.”

Shafer Gallery Director Dave Barnes a number of different elementary schools in the area contacted the gallery about bringing their summer school classes in for activities.

“James’s fish are a lot of fun to look at and appeal to young and old alike. His high quality work is a perfect complement to our summer programming,” Barnes said. “No matter who you are, you can’t help but smile when you see his work.”

When Mages spoke about his work, two things stood out: hard work and gratitude.

“The thing about art is it’s three percent inspiration and 97 percent perspiration,” Mages said. “You can start a project that looks great but if it’s not done, it’s a zero, it just doesn’t work.”

Behind his hard work, he said, are the people who supported him on his journey.

“There are countless people who, if they had not helped me, I wouldn’t have been successful,” he said. “I am just so thankful for them all.”

A photo of one of the many creations James Mages will have on display in the Shafer Gallery.
A photo of one of the many creations James Mages will have on display in the Shafer Gallery.