The Transmutation of James L. Acord

Artist James L. Acord, 66, passed away on Sunday, January 9, 2011, in his Pioneer Square apartment. Please check back for information on a public memorial and other updates.

Jim was an only child born in Seattle on October 19, 1944, in the Holocene Epoch, to Gail Elizabeth Chapman and James Leroy Acord.

Jim was at one time a devout altar boy, a cowboy, a master stone carver in Barre VT, a farm hand, and an artist in residence at Imperial College London. Barre stone carvers respected him enough to elect him union president and despite lacking a high-school diploma, James completed post-graduate courses in nuclear engineering.   

He was a perfectionist in all his pursuits, whether sculpture, riflery or technical mountain climbing. His superlative draftsmanship is evidenced in the hundreds of finely detailed drawings of bird’s nests, seed pods, animal bones and the like, turning mundane natural objects into poignant art.

His contemporary lectures on art and science merited him world class distinction and earned him invitations to speak in England, Slovenia, Barcelona, and at universities across the United States.  He was scheduled to deliver a talk to Carnegie Mellon University in March 2011.

Jim sacrificed materially for his art and never sought to profit from it. Though eager for a public forum to share his vision, he refused many engagements if he smelled the taint of aggrandizement.  Jim was relentless in his pursuit of the right materials and would not accept the impossible. If he needed spent nuclear fuel rods to complete his art, then why should he not have them?  The word “no” did not deter him. 

Nothing captures his quixotic spirit more than his desire to transmute dangerous, unpredictable transuranic byproducts of the nuclear age into stable, harmless, and eternal works of art. He was the only individual ever granted a nuclear materials license. Though thwarted by ignorant bureaucracy and personal tragedy, Jim persisted in his quest to the end of his life.

His completed art works include the Monstrance for a Grey Horse, a monumental granite sculpture, and a series of four reliquaries. The fifth and final reliquary remains unfinished. Locals may best remember his participation in exhibitions of the 1980s and early 1990s at Seattle’s Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA). 

Jim was a rapacious reader and was well versed in topics from religion to military history. He was also an adamant and politically active liberal. 

Jim has no known living relatives, but scores of close friends, many of whom considered Jim family, are greatly mourning his passing. He was generous to a fault, literally giving away his last dollar. Jim’s wicked sense of humor and irony charmed and entertained. The artistic legacy he leaves behind will outlast us all, but for those who knew him well, his abundant heart was his greatest gift.

“The base man who desired only for wealth would always fail. The higher adepts, the true alchemists, knew that what they were really transforming was themselves. The real lead was in their own hearts and only through purity of motivation could they transform that lead into gold.” –James L. Acord  

To share your thoughts and memories, to read the contributions of others, and to learn of upcoming events to memorialize Jim, please check back here soon.

About egalore

Philosopher Bureaucrat Extraordinaire View all posts by egalore

6 responses to “The Transmutation of James L. Acord

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