I began making wood sculpture in 1962. I knew how to use a chainsaw and it was one of those things – one day you just start.
— JB (James Blain) Blunk
Wood. Clay. Stone. Spirit. These are the elements from which JB Blunk created his work, and a more elemental artist of the postwar era would be hard to find. Blunk proceeded through sheer instinct and in deep conversation with nature; his art was the ultimate expression of a life lived off the grid. James Blain Blunk was born in Kansas in 1926, and he remained a quintessential Midwesterner, plainspoken and hard-working. Yet he was also a sculptor of tremendous creative power. His masterwork The Planet (1969), a feat of environmental reclamation on permanent view at the Oakland Museum of California, is carved from a single redwood root structure, all that was left of a majestic tree felled long ago. Like his other large-scale seating forms, it is endlessly inviting, a vast compendium of textured marks or sculpted incident. Indeed, it can be difficult to tell where Blunk’s interventions into wood and stone begin and end. In this respect he was very much like his friend and mentor Isamu Noguchi, who said that he sought in his raw material ‘not what can be imposed but something closer to its being. Beneath the skin is the brilliance of matter.’ Even Blunk’s ceramics, which may initially seem slight and offhand, are marvels of such invention, little portals into the possibilities of earth. In this book we at last have a published account that is equal to the man and his legacy. Paging through it, you will be struck by the constancy of his vision, the way that his ever-verdant imagination remained rooted to one place. That ground was both real – the extraordinary home that he built for himself and his family in Inverness, overlooking a seemingly primordial landscape – and transcendently spiritual. It was a place only he could see.