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Natural and human imagery appears frequently in James Surls sculptures, drawings, and prints. Growing up in East Texas in the 1940s and 50s impacted Surls’ organic and primitive style. He received his bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville, Texas and his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Surls works have been acquired by numerous American public collections including the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas; Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC; Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York; Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, California; Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, New York.

Surls currently lives in the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado with his wife and seven daughters.  

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