James Halloran

The Lamed-Vovniks
Oil on Linen
36" Round

This painting was commissioned by the historic Sixth & I synagogue in Washington DC. It is based on a Jewish legend about the 36 righteous people who will save the world.

I began this painting with a 36” circular canvas. It’s celestial in nature; I think of earth, sun and moon. The 36” is also in reference to the story of the Lamed-Vovniks; according to legend, 36 is the number of righteous people who were charged with preserving the world. 36 is double 18, or double Chai, the Hebrew word for “life.” I wanted to split the painting into two equal 18” half-circles on a horizon line.

To me, this landscape illustrates the terrestrial world and its reflection, mirror, or shadow of a hidden, concealed world, one that may house the Lamed-Vovniks. The 18 skyward stars reflect 18 figures, vibrating with life on the still water. When combined they also total 36. These righteous people are there to balance the ills of the world. It’s like the Lamed-Vovniks are cosmically entangled with us, like a star connected to its reflection in a pool of still water.

I think maybe the Lamed-Vovniks give us hope in their perfection. The idea of being nameless gives potential for each of us, because hey, we might be a Lamed-Vovnik after all. Who’s to say? And if we needed anything, it’s people striving for goodness, now and always. I feel hope when I think of them. To know that the world can balance like a spinning plate, held not alone by the rules of nature, but by the goodwill of humanity, gives me hope because the sun came up this morning and I know it will rise again.


Beginning on March 24th, I will be displaying brand new, charcoal drawings at Artomatic 2017 in Crystal City. The works are a return to my roots as a wildlife artist. After a few trips to the Small Mammal House and Amazonia at the National Zoo, I had a few inspired photographs worth working into drawings.

If you haven't attended an Artomatic in the past, here's your chance! From the Artomatic website:

"Artomatic is well-known for transforming empty spaces into vibrant arts communities that create unique and exciting events for tens of thousands of visitors – all FREE. It is simply a great way to discover new art!"

1800 S. Bell Street
Crystal City, VA 22202

My work is on the 9th floor, just behind the bar

Crystal City (Blue & Yellow Lines)

Free parking on weekends and after 4pm on weekdays

March 24th – May 6th
Wednesdays: Noon to 10:00pm
Thursdays: Noon to 10:00pm
Fridays: Noon to Midnight
Saturdays: Noon to Midnight
Sundays: Noon to 8:00pm
(Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays)

Nights I'll be attending:
Friday March 24th: Opening Night
Saturday April 8th: Meet the Artist Night

Hope to see you there!


About five years ago I found myself in the Freer Gallery in Washington DC, in a room surrounded by dimly lit landscapes that seemed to be depictions of night. I thought it was peculiar to paint that which isn’t there; darkness, absence, a fleeting moment. Whistler’s Nocturnes absolutely floored me. I had been inspired by George Inness beforehand and through a bit of research, found they were championing similar causes, and during a time of radical change in the art world, they were painting radically subtle images. Paintings that were soft, fuzzy and mysterious.

The American Tonalists were known to have painted landscapes with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. They were said to have painted softly. They worked in the late 1800s and are often represented by James McNeill Whistler and the spiritualist George Inness. Whistler stated that “paint should not be applied thick. It should be like breath on the surface of a pane of glass.” Whistler’s been described as “painting air” and I think that captures my intent. The “air” could simply refer to the fog and atmosphere but it also could mean the emotional state of a place. Over the last few years I found myself painting more softly. I found myself relearning how to paint.

Through the Tonalists I not only relate to the aesthetic and the process of blurring lines, subtracting forms and unifying color but also altering some exterior reality into another more personal, interior one.


James Halloran was born in Buffalo, New York in 1983. Initially studying classical painting under his mentor, Mary Ann Doering, James went on to receive a B.F.A., with a Concentration in Painting, at the University at Buffalo in 2005. After graduation, Halloran relocated to Northern Virginia where he continues to work from his home studio. In 2013 James was selected to participate in the Washington Project for the Arts Select exhibition and Gala. He was also a two-time finalist for the Bethesda Painting Awards. James continues to exhibit his work both locally and nationally. As an instructor, he teaches a variety of classes for both children and adults.