“The more I am spent, ill, a broken pitcher, by so much more am I an artist – a creative artist…a kind of melancholy remains within us when we think that one could have created life at less cost than creating art.” –Vincent van Gogh
This van Gogh quote fittingly opens Joel Armstrong’s uncommon video about his art and his person, as if they could be separated, indeed they are “drawn and quartered” as you must indulge to see the video for yourself. Despite the title, there’s only beautifully presented wire installations with nothing remotely violent including compelling background commentary using evocative descriptives that drive the listener to such an understanding that museum earphones have never before accomplished.
It is van Gogh who is the poster child of temperamental+artist, as the words so often are unmistakably entwined as so many artists suffer from depression. Of course it is van Gogh who cut off his ear lobe, and at 37 died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest after a prolific and genius career. But if this telegraphs a downer message, you misunderstand, as Armstrong presents an uplifting, candid message of hope for artists and humanity as he so clearly articulates his own battles in a strangely upbeat, forthright manner, more rust-coated than sugar-coated, and as one who overcomes, sure as rust .
25 years and 25 pounds ago I met Joel Armstrong when he was 25. He’d quickly established himself in Dallas business as an illustrator and graphic designer, which grounded his financial success for his young family and grounded his confidence and ambition in fine art. Faith was and is a constant for Joel, so he left the comfort of his contacts in Dallas and became art director at Group Publishing in Loveland, Colorado and completed his Masters in Drawing at Colorado State University. He immersed himself in his art that gained him multiple exposures in solo and collaborative exhibitions nationwide, winning numerous awards in juried expositions. Now he teaches drawing and illustration at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, while he continues creating completely original and highly engaging, interactive concepts in art using multiple media, especially wire.
Armstrong, himself wired to be a most private, introverted person, rockets out of that reclusive persona and into these expressive, dynamic, and public installations that are earnest and approachable without an ounce of platitudinous shame or need of it. Conversely, all of it is underscored in the very deliberate process of inviting viewers to touch the art, which separates itself poignantly from any other art museum on the planet where guards appear promptly at the risk of someone getting too close.
Armstrong’s website, while very simple and doesn’t take much time to browse, study, or even make a transaction, has all the critical elements necessary to establish credibility, tell a story, learn about his art, understand his purpose, see highly polished, non-promotional videos, even purchase either art, or even his “coffee table” book, "Wired!" Clearly it is a model of a neat, refined website for the artist, with all the go-to-market features and functionality permitting the mechanism to do its job, so all that needs to happen next is shipping and handling, so the artist can focus on feeding his passion, his work, not his business.
“As an installation artist, I want viewers to participate in the experience. I hope that those that venture into one of my installations come away feeling that they have experienced something different, something ‘spiritual.’”