Justin David Gustafson, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave Suite 207 Kalamazoo, MI 49007 Member Since February 2014 Artist Statement My interview for NPR's Arts and More can be read and heard at http://wmuk.org/term/justin-david-gustafson.
A Brief Biography of Justin David Gustafson
On the eleventh day of July, nineteen-hundred and seventy-nine the sun darkened behind an ominous cloud bank as Justin David Gustafson burst forth from his mother’s womb, nearly killing her in the process. The fourth of five boys born to an impoverished, workaholoic father, and a strict catholic mother, who desperately wanted a daughter; Justin has never known a life free of crushing guilt. The adult that resulted from this works nearly constantly in a futile attempt to absolve himself of sins never committed. At best he absolves himself of his bills.
In 2002 he graduated, with academic honors, from Kendall College of Art and Design where he studied under Jay Constantine, Margaret Vega, Diane Zeeuw, Boyd Quinn and Perin Mahler. There he learned to get over his fear of people and suspicion of compliments. Heavily influenced by Van Gogh, Justin feels fortunate to have gotten over his own depression around the time in his life when Vincent‘s life was falling apart. He hopes to survive long enough to see his own work gain favor among the peoples of Earth. James Whistler (his nocturnes), Edward Hopper (his buildings), Mary Cassat (her portraits), and Camille Pisarro (his landscapes) also played large roles in his early development as a painter, setting him on the course to where he is today.
Now by day he’s a mild-mannered maintenance man at Kalamazoo’s venerated Park Trades Center. When quitting time rolls around however, he tears off his filthy shirt to reveal an even dirtier shirt and becomes the artist currently known as Justin David Gustafson. Fighting the forces of boredom and mental stagnation, armed only with brushes, palette knives and his wits (so mostly just brushes and palette knives). His only weakness in this endeavor is that he is plagued with a condition which renders him unconscious for around six to eight hours every night!
He relates the heavy layering of his painting technique to the myriad layers of human cognition. Thoughts and feelings, overlapping and colliding, in a seemingly spontaneous fashion, which cohere into a distinct personality. Memories interacting with ambitions, prejudices and penchants hiding in the shadows or leaping to the fore. All of this occurs in the subconscious mind, from which the thoughts that we take credit for emerge, much like the indistinct smears of paint which harmonize to form recognizable imagery in Justin‘s paintings. Though generally a sober and rational intellect (except when he’s been drinking) his artwork is an attempt to reach or connect with his audience on a deeply emotional level. This may seem contradictory, however emotion is central to the human condition and it is thus only reasonable to embrace it. It is in fact madness to attempt to suppress or deny it. His madness is of an altogether different kind, a meticulous frenzy of thought and activity which weave in and out of coherence, yet coalesce into beautiful, sometimes haunting images.