James Hubbell is the principal creative force behind Ilan-Lael. He is an artist, architectural designer, a poet, jeweler, sculptor and designer in metal, wood, stained glass, and tile. He is also a teacher to students of architecture and design throughout the world.
Hubbell’s formal education was at Cranbrook Art Academy in 1955-56 where he studied Eli Saarinen’s accommodation to nature and applied it to his own work.
Travel inspired his work, including tours of Europe where he encountered the work of Gaudi; Africa and its rich sculptural traditions; and Asia, where he painted murals for the Army while serving in the Korean War.
Hubbell has received numerous awards, honors, and lifetime achievement recognition from such varied organizations as Rotary International, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Institute of Architects, the United Nations Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, and the Pacific Coast Builders Conference.
Doors of Abu Dhabi
The doors of Abu Dhabi connect the small mountain studio in Southern California all the way across oceans, cultures, worlds, to a United Arab Emirates sheik palace. This connection came about by the architect Victor Bisharat picking up a book in 1984, and being inspired by the work within, was moved to seek out and commission the artist to construct the 18 interior and exterior doors of his palace design.
To find the artist, Victor had to go to the Triton restaurant featured in the book and ask the staff who had done the artwork. Only then did Victor discover the mountain studio and artist.
Bisharat wanted the doors to be like Arabic coffee, rich and lavish. He also suggesting not trying to incorporate religion into the doors, because it would be too much and too complicated. To understand better the distant world these doors would serve, poetry was read. Knowledge of the rich Eastern culture and history was amassed through verse. This knowledge was then incorporated into the design of the doors. Legends and traditions pertaining to the space and function beyond the door was considered and incorporated to try and establish a universal understanding and appreciation of beauty. Nature and animals were a common theme in the poetry and culture, and served well in forming this universal connection.
To design the doors took six months, to construct them another six. Over a dozen craftsmen converged on the studio, combining their knowledge of wood, glass, and metal to bring these physical and spiritual connections to life. The result is a collection of pieces that work to transcend the distinctions of distance and background, and work instead to connect us through beauty.
For a more complete list of James’s career, view his resume.
Both nature and landscape play a central role in what James Hubbell creates, but there is a different way of looking at his aesthetic. With little exception his is an art not so much about landscape, but as landscape. Rather than illustrating or shaping the landscape, the majority of his work embodies or emulates nature.
James Hubbell’s public art is available to visit in many areas throughout San Diego County, Baja Mexico, and the West Coast.
It is impossible to imagine Hubbell’s body of work as separate from the place in which it is rooted, which is Ilan-Lael, the place. The architectural vocabularies of Gaudi and Hubbell, for example, are no more obvious than the form and texture that the indigenous manzanita shares with his iron work, or the native flora shares with his delicate line drawings or the leaded lines in his stained glass pieces.
This place where Hubbell lives is simultaneously a nurturer, a resource, a reference, a shelter, a launch pad, and a retreat. It’s also a pedestal on which, and around which, the artist continues his personal affirmation.