Jeremiah D. Welsh Talks Art

By on May 4, 2013

The natural world is an ostensibly simple one. Its beauty, however, is deeply rooted in its complexity.
This is the concept that fascinates artist Jeremiah Welsh.
A new Tokyo resident, the Connecticut native encapsulates his unique outlook of his environment within his media-spanning work, which ranges from painting to photography, with a primary focus on the themes of nature and spirituality. He is perhaps most known in the art community for his majestic bronze sculptures, for which he has been commissioned by governmental, non-profit, and private clientele around the world.
Tokyo Families talks to Jeremiah about art and life.
TF:   Please tell us about your artwork.
  I suppose that it is most accurate to say that my art is the outcome of my journey through life and the offspring of my experiences. It is a notation of my interaction with the polarities of life, crafted in a manner that I hope is both accessible and thought-provoking to the viewer.
Though I have explored and enjoy many mediums, I believe that low relief sculpture is ideally suited to the development of my concepts and ideas. The nature of low relief is something like painting with topography and texture. It is less bound to the mathematical absolutes of full round sculpting and is laced with a bit of magic: space is generated for the viewer rather than actually existing within the sculpture. In many ways, relief sculpture is a bridge medium between the two- and the three-dimensional.
My new low relief sculptural collection, which I will be releasing throughout the coming year, is based in old-world techniques and is of an identifiable and representational nature. Stylistically, I regularly draw upon iconography. While the subject matter of my work varies greatly, personification and metaphor are prevalent. Meanings are layered and often reflect the contemplation of society and humor – sometimes dark, sometimes lighter at heart. Through my sculpture I strive to set a narrative in place and generate a crossroad for conversation into which the viewer can enter.

TF:  How did you get your start in the fine arts – and specifically, in sculpting? 

Jeremiah: My pathway into professional sculpture has been a bit circuitous. While my educational background initially led me in the entirely different direction of museum management, it is hard to remember a time that I was not painting, carving, drawing, etc. There have been several remarkably supportive people in my life that continually encouraged me to pursue the development of my predisposition to create. When the opportunity arose to pursue a position as a relief sculptor it was paired with an equally splendid opportunity to pursue a position of leadership for an arts academy. Honestly, it was a bit of a Frostian “road not taken” kind of a moment. In any case, with some serious trepidation, I took what seemed a rather big chance to pursue the course of a contractual sculptor.
The nature of the art bronze industry is quite a unique crucible for learning. As an artist, I am not academy trained. I have been molded by fourteen years inside a fast-paced realm of tight deadlines, dust, hot metals, technical casting requirements and client approvals. Not a creative world or one that allowed for the development of an ego – but rather, one that encouraged the evolution of identity through style, specialization and technique. All told, it was an often difficult but very beneficial experience that honed the unique skill-set which I rely upon today.
TF:  Nature and spirituality appear to be prominent themes. Where do you find inspiration?
Jeremiah :
  Both nature and spirituality are quite influential in my life. Nature is for me the realm into which I can go to refresh and recharge. I am astonished by the complexity and beauty of nature; it is my sanctuary. Quite often, when I am able to remove myself to the woods and meadows, my mind clears. Though I cannot say that nature itself always directly inspires me, it does often provide the clarity from which my inspiration grows. Nature is a celebration of polarities. It is remarkably delicate and monumentally powerful, both nurturing and harsh, filled with humor and deadly serious. Over the years, I have found it to be a wonderful arena in which to learn and grow. My spirituality is closely linked to the recognition of my place in nature – primarily that of being in awe and humbled by it. The interlaced cycles of the natural world and the phenomenon of both myself as an individual and humanity at large within them further fuels my inspiration.TF:   What effect have your family and upbringing had on your art?
 They have had an immense impact on my art. My childhood was heavily steeped in time spent within a quite strict religious setting. This environment to which I was exposed was certainly for the most part not geared to being a child, but rather to acting as a small adult. There was a great deal of regimented quiet sitting for long periods of time, which admittedly was rather unpleasant and not a very easy thing for a small child to do.

Strangely, all that sitting up straight and being quiet forced me to turn inward, to rely upon my imagination and in so doing actively encouraged my future creativity. Further, in the evening, my mother read books aloud – challenging and creative books for a young mind, many well beyond my scope of complete understanding – to which I later returned. It was a bonding time – my favorite time. We came together as a family – comrades and adventurers all. I have such fine memories of that. With books, images are not so readily supplied, rather they must be generated within the mind. Television was not really encouraged. We lived near an extensive woodland and the many long afternoons of my childhood, no matter the season, were spent clambering and wandering amid the trees.
TF: What were your interests as a child, growing up?
 I was born in Connecticut, moved around a bit and spent much of my childhood in Western Pennsylvania. Bugs, rocks, and fish … give me a stone to turn over and by god, I was there! Who knew what fine little creatures lay beneath? If that stone was in a stream, then even better. I really can’t imagine to what lengths my poor mother was put when dealing with my strange collections. I was desperate to find my way aboard the Calypso and wander the world with Jacques Cousteau and crew. It seemed a fantastic life, deeply linking the pursuit of knowledge, wonderment, and adventure. I remember when I was quite young, that I got my mind around the idea that even the rocks, the very hardest of rocks, were subject to natural change over time.
Something in that idea had an incredible impact on me and from that moment, I felt that every pebble had its own important story to tell. It is with some shaking of my head that I now realize those same interests and ideas have endured all these years – still potent with inspiration and still inviting.
TF: Who are some other visual artists you consider influential to you?
  Well, there are quite a few. The first that comes to mind is Bernini. His work is so breathtakingly elegant. It demonstrates such an incredible grasp of the sculptural medium – absolutely awe-inspiring. I also find myself thinking of Giacomo Manzu – another uniquely remarkable sculptor. Further, the story of his life, his difficulties and complex interactions and relationship with the Church have always struck a cord with me. Lee Bontecou’s sculpture has also long intrigued me. Her early fabric and metal wall-mounted sculptures as well as her more recent mobiles are visually powerful and captivating.
I love the active geometric nature of Aldus Calder’s kinetic art, Giacometti’s elemental
and stark figures, the struggle, celebration and sadness of a Van Gogh and the strikingly sacred character of Mark Rothko’s grand-scale paintings. There are so many … each with a unique gift of insight.
TF:  What brought you to Japan?
 My job within the bronze industry was a very time consuming one; there was little time left in the day to work on anything for myself. The eventuality of this was that my mind was being drawn into a willingness to consider other possibilities than that of corporate sculpture. The ultimate catalyst for my move to Japan was my wife’s career. She actually was born here, just outside of Tokyo, and we had visited her family in Japan previously. When she began to look into international teaching positions, we admittedly harbored a bit of a predisposition and hoped to find our way to back to Japan once again. After several other possibilities arose, she was offered a position in Tokyo teaching third grade. Further, once we made our plans to relocate abroad known, a wonderful patron of the arts contacted me letting me know that he wished me to continue pursuing my sculpture. Thus through the kindness and assistance of our families, my wife’s new employers and colleagues as well as the remarkable graciousness of my patron, our transition into Japan was made much smoother.
TF: How has living in Tokyo impacted your work?
 The “How will?” of that question is very much on mind. In truth, I am so very new here. I have the hope to find a place for myself in this remarkable new environment and a home for my artwork as well. The thought of being able to pursue my own work and to develop my own ideas still leaves me in a bit of wonderment. I have worked at such a fast pace for so many years in the industrial bronze sector that sometime I still feel myself caught up in the momentum. I am excited to see where my art will go, how it will be influenced and where it will ultimately come to fit in Japan. Happily, I find that the pursuit of sculpture is well received by those in the local community who have discovered what it is that I do.
TF: The issue of arts in children’s education is a source of much debate. In your opinion, what are some advantages children would gain from being involved in the arts?
 First and foremost, I deeply respect the concerns of parents and educational administrators to maintain a focus on learning that is clearly fundamental and economically viable. That being said, the most direct road of learning does not always prove to be the most progressive. Creativity is a necessary aspect of innovation. I believe that exposure to the arts and the study of them nurture critical thinking. While technical knowledge in an increasingly technical world is necessary – technical knowledge without critical thinking seems stultified. The continued integration of the arts into the educational system seems to me an important balance in the learning process and beneficial to the refinement of unique thought processes. Likewise, to further limit exposure to the arts in education seems a profound loss. Art is an essential part of human communication. In it exists a language like no other. Whether a sonata, poem, or canvas, art retains the capacity to affect the emotions and to stimulate the thoughts of people across a multitude of cultures and economic divides. It is a reminder that sometimes that which is not easily monetarily convertible can still remain precious to both an individual and a society. In the arts is preserved a very special kind of human hope and joy – a hope and joy well worth sharing with our
children and well worth cultivating in them.
For more information on Jeremiah and his work, visit and

About Martin Leroux