A Conversation with James Gortner

Portia Walp
6 min readApr 5, 2018

As we celebrate 4 years of Silence Is Accurate (SIA), I’ve been reading the interviews I conducted and wrote about the incredible visual artists who were at the beginning of this journey. As they continue to change the world with their works, it’s interesting to look back to what seems a lifetime ago and revisit their projects.

“Art cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transformed.” — James Gortner

Mana Contemporary is an awe dropping 1.5 million square feet warehouse of creativity. It hosts studios of talents such as James Gortner.

James has a tranquil enigmatic aura which spills into his stories and teachings.

He warned me that he tends to ramble while talking about his work, however what he may think is rambling, is actually the unfolding of the careful thought process behind each and every detail of his work. Revealing the incredible amount of passion he puts into each of his paintings.

The back storage area of his studio keeps dozens of his paintings which each have a captivating journey.

During our conversation, James gave a quick lesson on tarot cards, explained his process as well as the trust needed when letting other artists, such as Kara Walker, work on his paintings…


Inside James Gortner’s studio. Jersey City, NY. January, 2015

I grew up always drawing and building things. I never saw any actual art but my own until much later. I was exposed from an early age to natural science and history museums. Art was cut out of the LA unified public school district programming. [Only] later, when I was in private high school I was taken on my first trip to an art museum. Bussed to LACMA to see the once in a lifetime Picasso exhibition (I think Guernica was there). Unimpressed, I cut out early with friends to get McDonald’s. I’ve done penance for this in my adult life, now having frequented many of the world’s best art museums.

I am emerging! I just love the sound of that. Determining that is a balance of chosen-ness by others and personal ego. How others see you and how you see yourself. I had a solo show across the street from the Gagosian Gallery when Jeff Koons was soloing last year. Showing on 24th St. Next to Mary Boone, Jack Shainman, Andrea Rosen etc. placed me in proximity to the establishment…



Portia Walp

🦄🌪 I've lived a million different lives in cities, islands, and jungles across continents - each move inspired by a calling to relish the gift of freedom.