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How a horseback riding accident led to a path of artistic discovery


DENVER — James Holmes is an abstract visual artist with a unique tale on how he found his path and artistic voice.

“About seven or eight years ago I just had this impulse that I wanted to try to find a way towards my own creative voice,” Holmes explained.

He pursued guitar as a creative outlet, only to find he wasn’t a natural, and the process was more about labor than fun.

As an avid horseback rider, he would also ride many weekends on various horses. One sunny afternoon his horse was spooked and bucked him off; he landed awkwardly on the ground.

“I didn’t think I was hurt,” James recalled, “but I figured I should get myself checked out because I came off pretty hard.”

While on his way to the hospital, fate seemed to take him in the direction of Parker Adventist Hospital.

“I was on [the highway], and I could have gone to the west which was Sky Ridge [Medical Center], or to the east, which was Parker Adventist. For some reason, I went to Parker Adventist,” Holmes says.

It turned out that the chief of neurosurgery just happened to be on call that day at Parker Adventist. After an examination, the doctors determined that Holmes needed spinal fusion surgery.

"All I was interested in was abstraction," Holmes said.

The 12 week sedentary recovery that followed is when his artistic path opened up in front of him, starting with a conversation with his mom.

“She says to me, ‘You used to love to draw and paint when you were a kid. Why don’t you start drawing because you’re going to go crazy sitting in this recliner chair.’”

And thus began Holmes’ journey.

“What I found when I started making work, was all I was interested in was abstraction. I had no interest in trying to paint a horse or a tree or anything else, it’s all about expressing more emotion,” Holmes said.

But it wasn’t just the act of painting.

“Something that I realized fairly early on was that I was doing this expressive form of painting as a form of healing,” Holmes explained. “In the past I’ve always used my voice to communicate or to share, but the art showed me that I am supposed to be a visual communicator.”

Holmes sees painting as a form of healing

Holmes also added, “I try to be very vulnerable in my painting.”

As time went on, he received positive feedback from his paintings, and even an invitation to show his artwork, where he sold his first painting.

Sometime later, he was invited back to the place where the journey all began.

“I had someone reach out to me, and she said I have an opening for a show at Parker Adventist Hospital,” Holmes recalled. “I said to her, ‘Do you understand the connection I have with Parker Adventist?’ She said no, so I told her the story.”

Parker Adventist has a healing gallery, where James was able to display his artwork.

“Going back to the hospital where the journey all began, and being able to bring my artwork back in a healing gallery to help serve other people; this is really done for them,” Holmes says. “Ultimately I’m doing [painting] to share with people and impact them in a positive way.”

You can explore more of Holmes' work here.

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