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Arts & Culture

James Hubbell - Between Heaven And Earth

Jim Hubbell in his Julian, Calif. studio.
By John Durant
Jim Hubbell in his Julian, Calif. studio.

Stream now or tune in Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV + Monday, Nov. 2 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2

If nature were to build a church, what would it look like?

It would contain curves and color, light and shadow, form and function. It would be a place where all things work together and nothing is separate....a place where the Gods are beckoned by beauty...where life is balanced in joy and pathos…and where we are invited to embrace all that it means to be human.

Journey with us around California and beyond — to see an amazing body of work created by artist James Hubbell. Come to a deeper understanding — through the words of scholars, friends, and the artist himself — about his art, his motivation, and his inspiring life.

For eight decades, Hubbell has used art to understand and shape his world. A 
life lived in harmony with the natural world that surrounds his southern California mountain home has inspired exquisite commissions for churches and synagogues, chapels and parks, even a palace.

James Hubbell studio at the Ilan-Lael Foundation in Santa Ysabel, Calif.
Courtesy of Marianne Gerdes
James Hubbell studio at the Ilan-Lael Foundation in Santa Ysabel, Calif.

Described as organic…romantic…and original, his spiritual side reveals itself as strongly as a pattern in a stained glass window. It captivates our senses and elevates our spirit. 

All Souls Church, San Diego, Calif.
Courtesy of Michael Gerdes
All Souls Church, San Diego, Calif.

"Between Heaven And Earth" tells a powerful story of art that transcends the ordinary and lifts us in unexpected ways, created by an artist who views beauty, nature, and humanity as vital to his spirit, and who invites us in to his world to consider the same.

Chapel at Sea Ranch, Calif.
Courtesy of Michael Gerdes
Chapel at Sea Ranch, Calif.

A lot has happened since the time we saw James Hubbell on film in 2002. His many new accomplishments include the expansion of his Ilan-Lael home and building more parks in nations — like China, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan.  

And some events that showed up uninvited....the devastating Cedar Fire, Parkinson's Disease, and the challenges of aging we all must face.

But through it all, it is the art that keeps him relevant in new installations like the Tides Room at Ilan-lael, and in classics like The Sea Ranch Chapel and The Palace Doors of Abu Dhabi.  


Two of the Palace Doors of Abu Dhabi.
Courtesy of Otto Rigan
Two of the Palace Doors of Abu Dhabi.


Jim Hubbell is 87 years old, and while age and illness have slowed him, his creative power remains strong. His art speaks to a world that is searching for beauty and humanity.

His life is a love letter to nature that nurtured and inspired him. His legacy touches friends and strangers alike every day.

Ann and James Hubbell with quote: "He has been so true to this impetus inside himself that makes him want to do art all the time...he's listened to it so carefully."- Ann Hubbell, Co-founder of Ilan-Lael Foundation.
Courtesy of Marianne Gerdes
Ann and James Hubbell with quote: "He has been so true to this impetus inside himself that makes him want to do art all the time...he's listened to it so carefully."- Ann Hubbell, Co-founder of Ilan-Lael Foundation.

Created by Marianne Gerdes.