Art — James Chase

James Chase


By Michelle Saturley


A Manchester original He puts a piece of the city in every work


Artist James Chase, 22, doesn’t drive. He walks to his job at Rite-Aid, as well as to his classes at New Hampshire Institute of Art. And it’s during these excursions that Chase finds the materials for his artwork.

“I love my city,” Chase said. “I try to incorporate a sense of Manchester into my work. All of my pieces tell a story about Manchester in some way. I use objects like old railroad ties that I found along the Merrimack River, or old rusty gears and tools.”

So deep is Chase’s love for his hometown, he volunteers at the Manchester Historic Association. Even his artistic role models are local.

“My grandmother is a traditional oil painter,” he said. “I grew up watching her paint. I knew by the second grade that I wanted to be an artist.”

Chase credits the art teachers along the way who supported his desire.

“I’m a graduate of Central High, and the faculty there was supportive,” he said. “I also took lessons at E.W. Poore.”

Chase started out as a cartoonist, but says he was unsatisfied with the response he got from people.

“When I would show people my cartoons, the reaction I usually got was, ‘Oh, those are cute,’” he said. “I didn’t want to make art that was ‘cute.’”

Chase decided to expand his artistic palate by landing an intern position at NHIA while still in high school. He learned black-and-white photography under Gary Samson, and also took classes in drawing, collage and painting. His current style reflects all of these techniques. It’s also decidedly less ‘cute’ and more dark, incorporating found objects with abstract photography and bold movement.

“I take photos of people, and then I cut them all up and put them back together to make layer upon layer,” he said. “Now, when people see my mixed media pieces, they are forced to look closer. There are so many layers in each piece, you can’t possibly get them with just a glance.”

One of his pieces, “Mechanical Heart,” debuted at the Strawberry Shortcake Festival at the Valley Cemetery last June. Manchester Artist Association vice president Larry Donovan saw the piece and was so impressed, he invited young James to join the MAA and participate in the Art in the Park show in September. The piece won Best in Show.

“A year earlier, I had wanted to show my work at the Mill City Festival, but I couldn’t afford the entrance fee,” Chase said. “Plus, I wasn’t really ready at that time to start showing my pieces. By last June, I was ready. I was fortunate that Larry was there at the right time.”

Since then, Chase says, his career has been building exponentially.

“Joining the MAA was one of the best things I’ve done for my career,” he said. “The other artists are so supportive. And they are well-connected. They’re always giving me names of galleries and shows that are important for me to be seen in.”

Chase just finished a successful weekend at the Derry Art Show, where he once again garnered a “Best in Show” nod. Next, he’s slated to become a juried member at the MAA gallery on Elm Street, located at the Carol Rines Center. And in June, Chase will be the featured artist at Dčjŕ Vu Arts, located in Langer Place.

“Being at Dčjŕ Vu was a goal of mine,” Chase said. “Gayle Vanasse [owner of Dčjŕ Vu] has a reputation of being one of the most supportive people to new artists in the community.”

With winter in full swing, Chase says his daily walks in search of found objects are a little more difficult. Instead, he’s focusing on the business end of being an artist: selling his work and marketing himself. Chase is also looking south, to Nashua, for future shows.

“One of my goals for this year is to get into a Nashua gallery or show,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean my work will change. I’m still very focused on Manchester.”

For more information on James Chase, visit

—Michelle Saturley

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