ARTIST OF THE MONTH
John Armstrong knew he wanted to leave Laurel, Montana at an early age. The realization struck him not long after he discovered he could draw vegetable people better than the other kids. “I looked out the window and saw strip farming, an oil refinery and the railroad,” the 70-year-old recalls. “I didn’t want to be a farmer or work at the refinery or the railroad. I decided right then to be an art teacher.”
Armstrong reluctantly studied printmaking as part of his graduate work at the University of Montana in Missoula, but ultimately fell in love with it. Today, the Phoenix resident is a master printmaker who uses the fundamentals of his trade to create unique industrial-art reliefs. He begins with salvaged aluminum sheets. Like Michelangelo and his marble, Armstrong views the aluminum as something waiting for its artistic essence to be uncovered. “The aluminum has a life of its own. It’s been thrown on the ground, walked and rained on,” Armstrong says. “I take the life of the aluminum and expand on it.”
He sands the aluminum, then scratches lines into it as one might groove a printing plate, running oil, acrylic or house paint into the lines. He deliberately obscures any figurative shapes – a landscape or even the hint of an animal – then mixes in media like wood and metals in “an assemblage process,” he says. “I want people to respond to the art itself, not be led into a specific direction.” The abstract pieces will be on display August 17-September 15 at Armstrong Prior Inc. in Phoenix (1824 E. McDowell Rd.). See his art at armstrong-prior.com.