Artist and designer Jamie Boling asks questions and shapes atmospheres through his work

Jamie Boling, artist and entrepreneurial designer, discusses his studio and client-based work, as well as his experiences as a self-made artistic entrepreneur.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

A vibrant, eye-catching mural of a large boombox appeared in the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall on FilmScene’s wall next to the Brothers Bar & Grill patio last month.

The mural was painted by artist and designer Jamie Boling, who studied fine and studio art as an undergraduate at Iowa State University before transferring to the University of Nebraska to study printmaking and earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts.

At the University of Iowa, Boling received his Master of Fine Arts and studied abroad in France as a research fellow.

Boling has lived and worked in Paris, Berlin, and New York. Now, his studio is in Arizona. He has taught art classes at several institutions, including the UI, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Kirkwood University.

As an artist and designer, Boling creates studio art to be displayed in galleries and client-informed art made for a specific space.

Boling began to pursue client-based work in the last 10-12 years. This means he tailors his pieces to the interests of his clients, so the art he produces creates an atmosphere for the client’s space.

One such client-tailored piece is the “Full Blast” boombox mural located on the Ped Mall. The Iowa City Mural Program reached out to Boling specifically for the project.

“Full Blast” is not the first project Boling has completed for Iowa City. He also designed murals for the Pullman Bar & Diner and St. Burch Tavern in downtown Iowa City. In each case, his art has shaped the atmosphere of the spaces they occupy.

“What I like to do is create work that tells a story in some way — and I don’t necessarily mean a narrative story — but work that informs a space through narrative connections in an effort to activate that environment and create a vibe,” Boling said.

Boling said he enjoys client-based work because it can be displayed for a longer time, allowing it to reach a wider audience. The artwork in a space also sparks a conversation with other elements of the building’s architecture, Boling said.

The “Full Blast” mural stands out to Boling because it is currently one of his most publicly accessible pieces in its location along the Ped Mall. This accessibility allows him to engage with it as a viewer instead of as an artist. Enjoying his art as an image after it has been finished has been a high point for Boling.

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Along with client-based design work, Boling continues to pursue studio work based on his own interests and inspirations.

Boling’s studio work captures photographed moments through the physical medium of a painting, he said.

When he looks for images to paint, he said he  examines “what their relationship is with certain archetypes of historical things.” A powerful image is a representation of an inherent human experience.

Boling prefers to produce large-scale paintings because they are more physically engaging. The corporeal relationship between the art and the viewer shifts, causing viewers to pay more attention to the image and more deeply appreciate it.

“The images that I choose are ones that I think are poignant, sometimes provocative, but oftentimes they’re images that simply present themselves questions — questions like, ‘What are we doing, and why are we fascinated by certain things as a culture?’” Boling said.

Hearing the different interpretations of his pieces when they finally hang in a gallery is rewarding, Boling said. His paintings often capture images that ask questions and inspire viewers to discuss the pieces.

As a professor, he also engages with students by teaching through questions and encourages his students to learn the same way.

“If you can demystify processes as a professor, then you can give people the tools to not only learn new skills but also to begin to teach themselves,” Boling said.

As a business-oriented artist in design, Boling taught himself entrepreneurship through trial and error. He learned important skills like understanding and communicating the historical contexts of artwork and essential lessons of traditional painting.

Boling learned his way around business by building upon skills he already possessed from working in fields like carpentry and architecture. He said this experience, however, is not shared by every artist who goes into the world and has to survive in their chosen career. But persistence is key, he added.

“The people that I see and interact with who have been successful in finding a way in the world making art are the ones who remain patient and remain persistent,” Boling said. “You have to keep pushing forward.”