Rondall James, commonly known as RJ, knew that he wanted to be an artist since he was in elementary school. For more than three decades, RJ taught art at schools around the Fredericksburg region, before retiring in 2016 and moving to Williamsburg. Nevertheless, with his “Printing with Clay” series, RJ’s art has left a lasting impression on the Fredericksburg community.
That legacy is currently on display at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center, where RJ’s artistic work is currently being showcased. RJ’s art will be in the Visitor Center auditorium until October 31st, and guests are encouraged to swing by, tour and experience his beautiful work. The Visitor Center is at 706 Caroline St. and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The process of printing with clay consists of white-powdered China clay, which is mixed with water, and added with a pigmentation for color. RJ first became aware of this artform in 2007 while earning his master’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Art captures the period of time that we’re in,” RJ said. Much of his work has a layer of social commentary to it, such as his painting ‘Yes We Can,’ a tribute to the election of President Barack Obama. From a young age, RJ has always been fascinated with “Afro-centric” figures in art. Growing up, he did not see much of “black art,” and eventually drew inspiration from black artists such as John Biggers, Charles White and local legend Johnny Johnson.
As a former teacher, RJ believes that it is critical for public schools to keep their art classes. During his enrollment at Virginia State University, he was prepared on how to teach art, while also becoming aware of how art is not a well-funded profession or educational endeavor; the lack of funding continues to this day, and has arguably worsened. RJ believes that art classes should never leave public schools.
RJ has been impressed with the growth of the artistic community in Fredericksburg. With multiple gallery openings and events such as FXBG First Friday, he believes Fredericksburg should continue its great work in offering opportunities for, and exposure to, local artists and their incredible work.
“Artists are always telling their story, usually about the connection that they have with history, and the time that they live,” RJ said.