Artist statement

In my work, I employ heightened color and intense texture to depict a variety of subject matter in an emotionally charged fashion.  The colors and textures are intended to fill in for the information that would be gathered by the other senses, were the viewer actually at the locations in my paintings.

    My technique begins by painting the shadows with my darkest color.  Once this layer dries, I apply the next lighter color with a palette knife.  I continue this process for each successively lighter color, allowing them to dry between each session.  Finally, I apply the highlights, which end up being the thickest paint on the piece, giving a greater sense of depth against the thinner darker colors.  The resulting image has a quasi-sculptural appearance of deep relief.

     I relate the heavy layering of my painting technique to the myriad layers of human cognition.  In the human mind, thoughts and feelings overlap and collide, in a seemingly spontaneous fashion, only to cohere into a distinct personality.  Our memories subconsciously interact with our ambitions, prejudices and penchants, which hide in the shadows, occasionally leaping to the forefront of our mind.  Much as our conscious thoughts emerge from these subconscious impulses, the recognizable imagery in my work emerges from the indistinct splashes of paint. 


My Story

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 wood-worker at Homestead Furniture, deep in the bowels of Kalamazoo’s venerated Park Trades Center.  When quitting time rolls around however, he tears off his dusty 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), Gustafson works tirelessly to enrich the lives of those his artwork reaches.  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, but 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.