Artist and educator Joel Armstrong will feature two series of rust-related artworks throughout the month of September at Stage Eighteen. Join us for a free opening reception held during First Thursday from 5-9pm on the evening of September 7.
Joel's work is a culmination of his practice, influenced by his education, personal experiences, readings, and world history. He highlights both rust and gold, examining rust as a force that can wear down strong materials, while gold harkens to renewal and continued enriching experiences. All artworks will be for sale at various price points.
My installations have always based on stories. Whether these stories were from personal memories of growing up, family history, or those shared with me—stories led my artwork. There was safety in those stories, and if a viewer dug deep enough or long enough, they could always find the clues to understanding my work. In a way, the wire pieces mirrored the originals in the form of rust paintings.
Along with these stories was a personal vocabulary in the materials I used, which included wire and rust. The wire I used for over 15 years was baling wire; a staple traditionally used to bind up, shut out, and fence in a family or homestead from the unknown, or in some ways, from actually being known. Having been someone who always dealt with depression, when I read Andrew Solomon’s book The Noonday Demon, I was enlightened to read “Mild depression is a gradual and sometimes permanent thing that undermines people the way rust weakens iron.”
I attended a workshop called "100 Drawings" in Bennington, Vermont lead by Dean Nimmer. The workshop focused on allowing intuition to guide your artwork, rather than relying so much on a plan for completion. I brought with me my traditional rust patina that I was so comfortable with; however, I didn't allow myself to take along the wire which was so much the base of all my work for so many years. I also semi-intuitively brought along a gold glaze paint.
Working on three different colored art papers, I began making intuitive marks first with the rust, then gold, and finally a beautiful contrasting blue. The gold proved to be a startling contrast to rust, both in reality and also in theory. The old was being made new again, as the decay of rust was being overtaken and simultaneously enriched by the shimmering gold. The combination of the gold and bright blue made these works come alive in such a way that one might easily imagine how gold and rich colored fabrics filled old world tapestries.
Joel Armstrong grew up in Corpus Christi, TX, where he grew to love fishing, salt air, humidity, and rust. After attending Texas Tech University, he spent over 20 years as an illustrator and graphic designer. Armstrong received his MFA in drawing from Colorado State University in 2001. At CSU, he began working with rusted wire. Recently, Armstrong has started working with nickel/silver wire, rust and gold paintings, as well as aluminum public art pieces. The artist currently teaches drawing and illustration at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.