Catching up with one of our first Lund Scholarship recipients, now an award-winning artist and art professor at Fresno State
A lot has changed since Jamie Nakagawa Boley arrived at Fresno State as a transfer student a decade ago. One thing has not: her commute.
Now an assistant professor in the university’s Art, Design and Art History Department, she makes the same one-hour drive from Visalia that she did as an undergraduate.
“I’m stuck in the car, can’t do anything, so I play this little game, kind of like being thankful,” she says. What may sound like a meditative boredom buster actually points to a foundation of Boley’s art.
“More and more, the land just unveils itself to me,” she says. “The land talks back to me.”
Boley describes herself as “a land artist” and calls her daily back-and-forth across the San Joaquin Valley “a dialog with the land.”
It doesn’t end when she parks. In the studio, she makes her process deliberately daunting to provoke an experience that mimics these dialogs with place. To “bridge the gap between representation and reality” and imbue the work with the dynamism of communication, her installations are immersive and often large scale, incorporating painted panels with media ranging from textiles to video to found and natural objects, some as large as a body of water.
“I want to not make a fast painting,” she says. “In these marks that we make, there is a language. I tell my students, ‘The art knows things that I don’t know. It takes me time to figure out what my paintings are saying.’”
Boley, who identifies as a Japanese Choctaw American Indian artist, says that her life shapes her art, particularly growing up with multiple cultural influences, starting college over 40 and earning degrees while raising four children (with her “very supportive” husband, Mike).
After completing her master’s at Fresno State in 2017, she adjuncted until taking a faculty position this year. Meanwhile, she earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Chicago Art Institute school, funded in part by a College of Arts & Humanities Dean’s award, while teaching, doing gallery installations and making art.
Boley got to know Ed Lund when he organized the graduate-student space at the college’s Phebe Conley Art Gallery. His energy made an impression. “He was a body of movement, a gesture,” she says. “He had that momentum.”
She recalls him rushing around the docks, meticulously curating shows, making an exhibit table by hand. Yet he still gave attention to student work.
“Ed was very impactful for me as far as my work is concerned because he noticed it,” she said. “He was an artist, very talented, very gifted. … I don’t know if that goes to your head or something but it was very positive for me.”
Whatever Ed saw in Boley, the Lund Foundation did, too. Established the year after a cycling accident that took his life in October 2015, it awarded her one of three inaugural Lund Scholarships. The honor was bittersweet.
“I was one of the first students to receive his scholarship to go to London, which was incredible and sad, also, because I knew the source,” she says. “It was also crazy beautiful. A keeps-on-giving thing.”
She calls her 2016 study abroad “a dream becoming reality”, a door swinging wide. She remembers the “familiar yet strange,” such as visiting places she’d only read about or sitting in a café across from Van Gogh’s Paris apartment.
“I felt like I could do whatever I wanted,” she says. “Just be there.”
Now, Boley encourages students to pursue the scholarship and make their own discoveries.
“It is something really special that our program has,” she says. “I watch the students and I see the growth. I feel the excitement.”
That spark of contagious energy didn’t come from just anywhere.
“The link to Ed is so huge – and I’m not just saying that – because he was pushing against something, too,” she says. “He really was feeding that fire.”
That’s why his scholarship matters.
“It’s keeping that fire alive.”
Jamie Nakagawa Boley is a Japanese Choctaw American Indian interdisciplinary artist and writer whose work incorporates painting, video, photography and installation. Deeply connected to the landscape of the San Joaquin Valley, her work has been included in numerous exhibitions and solo shows. She holds an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2019) and an M.A. in Studio Art from CSU-Fresno (2017), where she currently teaches and curates exhibitions for the Clovis community college gallery. She lives in Visalia, CA.
>> View Jamie’s art at jamienakagawaboley.net