Yiren & James Gallagher

by Rebekah Greiman


Yiren Gallagher pores over Internet articles, calling out ideas with a thick accent to her husband James. He sits just a few feet away from her in their home office, scribbling down her ideas in a notebook; the pages fill up with creative inspiration. He’s her Michelangelo. She’s his Girl Friday.

Yiren is short, exotic, and won’t stall out in a conversation. James stands at least a foot taller than his wife, quietly adding his opinion or a clarification if it’s needed.

“He’s not what I think of as a husband,” Yiren states. “He’s an artist. If he wasn’t an artist, we wouldn’t work.”

They arrived 25 minutes late, drenched by the rain because neither had an umbrella. Yiren’s hair was pulled haphazardly back into a pony tail of sorts, loose strands floating around when the heater would kick on. She brought her own apron—pinned to the front are hand-picked buttons—for the photo shoot. James is wearing an old sweater, but soon his body warms up and he opts for the plain t-shirt underneath. He strokes his beard between shots.

They often disregard their personal comfort in order to pursue creativity. Once, they shunned their beds to live inside an art gallery in Oklahoma City while they pieced together a boat installation. They haven’t reached the status of a Warhol or a Pollock, keeping their day jobs to pay the bills. Most of the art they make every day, they admit to throwing away.

“Our art is like pushing a giant block of ice down the street,” James said. “It’s maximum effort with minimum results. And in the end, there’s nothing.”

Yiren and James teeter on the edge of bankruptcy with each new project. The couple will participate in the International Container Arts Festival in Kaohisung, Taiwan. Although sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Visual Arts program, they assume they’ll go over budget and certain design issues might have to come out of their pockets.

“The biggest problem will be the cow,” James said. “They don’t want a live cow in the middle of the city. But, we’ll make it work.”

The couple has made it work through 24 years of marriage surrounded by multiple joint creations, including two of their most-prized— their children, Moira and Emron.

Yiren and James Gallagher were married on November 7, 1987.