James was painting vivid, small portraits in oil and beautifully patterned animal skins on white acrylic surfaces, for display purposes mounting both types flush on the projecting surface of deep boxes. He had recently installed his graduation exhibition and presented his portraits in interesting juxtapositions on an overall floor-to-ceiling pattern of his design that covered the gallery walls. The geometric patterns on the walls and the shadow patterns cast by the three-dimensional boxes upon which the paintings were mounted worked together in an extraordinary way. Curious where he might go next in integrating his painting experience with a gallery installation, James Donnelly was invited to create a gallery installation at Virginia Tech’s Armory Art Gallery. We sent him photographs of local people
from the New River Valley to work from, and he combined their portraits with sensuously painted images of animal skins.