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Evoking emotion

Joel Sager’s art uses
a deconstructive process and its dark symbolism represents the question of ideals post-Sept. 11
Sunday, November 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:15 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The artist: Joel Sager, a native Missourian, recently completed his degree at William Jewell College in Kansas City and now resides in Columbia. His mixed-media creations have been described as “smart and moody,” although Sager sees them more as “dark and deconstructive.”

The art: Sager’s work evokes some of the same post-war themes as regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton, who also focused on middle-American life and the rural landscape.

Sager’s dark symbolism, which he says represents certain parts of life “going by the wayside,” is his perspective on post-Sept. 11 America.

Sager’s work has been featured at the Truman Foundation Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He currently has work on exhibit at Poppy, 914 E. Broadway.

Q

What type of theme would you say your work has?

A

I would definitely say it’s dark and it’s similar to my deconstructive process. I put the paint on, then scrape it away. It’s not only my theme, but also my process.

Q

People have referred to your work as “moody and smart.” Is this what you are trying to evoke?

A

I don’t know. I’d say I’m going for moody, but the “smart” is subjective to who is looking at it. The idea of art is to evoke emotion.

Q

Is it appropriate to explain the meaning of art?

A

It’s important to explain certain aspects, but like a good poem or short story, sometimes people will see your subconscious meaning.

Q

Your style resembles that of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. Have they been influential to you?

A

I don’t really look up to them, but the similarities of Thomas Hart Benton are the regionalist paintings of the ’20s, farmers and landscape. Similar to post-war Thomas Hart Benton, this could be seen as an examination. After the war, people began to question American ideals, and it has begun to happen again after Sept. 11.

Q

Why have you chosen to produce art in Columbia?

A

I didn’t really choose it, but my wife goes to medical school here. I was going to go to New York. I will still paint regionalist themes, but the art capital has been in New York since the 1950s.

Q

Can you explain the different materials you use in your art?

A

First, I do collage and use anything from child’s construction paper to wallpaper. Then I use acrylic paint and block in colors. Then, I use oil and turpentine.

Q

What is your motivation in art and how did you get started?

A

I started watercolors in eighth grade, and my instructors were really encouraging. My teacher in college showed me how to apply my art to oil. When I apprenticed for Mark English, I learned more in that year than I had ever learned in my life.

Q

What is your ultimate goal with your work?

A

My one-year goal was to show in Kansas City. In August, I got a show at the Cup and Saucer. My five-year goal is to show in New York.

Q

Have you experimented with any other art media?

A

I work on wood board, but if someone asks me to work on canvas, I will. I’ll probably stick with painting, but I might someday feel the urge to do a bust or something.


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