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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy photo Joel Armstrong created a bird house out of wire in honor of a bird house he found at a Northwest Arkansas garage sale, a favorite item of the seller.

Joel Armstrong finds inspiration for his art in stories.

Stage 18 in Fayetteville has chosen Armstrong's work for "Rusted," the September featured artist display. A First Thursday reception is planned for the evening of Sept. 7.

Courtesy photo The main medium for Joel Armstrong’s art is rust. For paintings, he has added gold and blue paint for contrast. Armstrong’s work will be displayed during September at Studio 18 in Fayetteville.

FAQ

Joel Armstrong: ‘Rusted’

WHEN — Sept. 7-30

WHERE — Stage 18, 18 E. Center St. in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — stage18live.com

BONUS — An artist’s is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

"Garage sales are interesting to me," says Armstrong, who also teaches art at John Brown University in Siloam Springs.

"I have a hard time getting rid of things, so I wonder how others decide," Armstrong says. "I went to garage sales in Northwest Arkansas and asked them. Why was this item $2.50? What were they going to miss the most?"

"Somebody had the birdhouse as her favorite thing," he says.

So he paid homage to that beloved item in two different ways: as a wire sculpture and a painting. And he uses his favorite medium: rust.

"The use of rust came out of the fact that I lived in Corpus Christi (Texas)," he says. "If I left my toy cars out, they'd be rusted by morning."

(Armstrong reported no relatives left in the Gulf Coast town battered by Hurricane Harvey.)

Armstrong's early art was created from baling wire. "It's used for baling hay and building fences," he explains. "It's heavy and really greasy. I had to wash it down with degreaser. It was black, and they sold it by the mile. So I'd pay $70 and have enough to last for several years."

Armstrong hammered the wire curves to make them sturdy and connect the joints. "That was a sturdy little birdhouse," he says.

More recently Armstrong uses nickle silver wire, which is much more expensive, and a "fake" rust system, he says. First, he applies a metal base paint and then a chemical which turns the wire a bright orange.

The scraps of this treated wire led Armstrong to his paintings.

He would place the wire pieces on old, brown craft paper and noticed they made interesting marks on the paper, kind of like a heavy watercolor, he says.

"I wondered, 'Why can't I paint with the stuff?'"

So using a brush, he spread the rust.

Next Armstrong added "sparkly gold paint" to his works, appreciating the contrast. "He highlights both rust and gold," his artist statement reads. "He examines rust as a force that can wear down strong materials, while gold harkens to renewal and continued enriching experiences."

Now, Armstrong has splashed blue paint on the papers. From his Christian background, he called on David's instructions to Solomon to build the Temple for the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Chronicles 28.

"He was so specific," Armstrong says. "He wanted purple curtains and pomegranate and a lot of gold. I just wanted a supportive color. Purple was too dark, but blue is a great opposite color of the golds and browns."

"Now, whatever I do in wire, I do one or two paintings," Armstrong says. Also, a book published in 2001 with the display of his "Garage Sale" work includes poems for each piece.

Much of Armstrong's art is designed as "installation art," in which he reinvents the entire gallery space. "Garage Sale" will be displayed at Studio 18.

For example, "Clothesline." He spent days with wet laundry drooping on a clothesline and re-created the drooping images in wire and paint.

"Time and space are integral to my compositions," Armstrong writes in his artist statement. "I collect wire drawings into gatherings that either attach to the walls or suspend from the ceiling. I add sounds, light and sometimes even smells to work together with the drawings to create a multisensory environment. My aim is to make people feel at home and offer them time to absorb each piece and to be a part of something special, something bigger."

NAN What's Up on 09/01/2017

Print Headline: Rusted But Not Old

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