Gary Justis

Gary Justis
Bloomington, Illinois, US
April 04
Gary Justis has worked primarily in the area of kinetic sculpture for the last 34 years. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1977 to 1999. He currently resides in Bloomington Illinois, where he teaches and writes stories about his actual experiences. (please take a look at his "Sculpture" link for more info)


Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 5, 2010 4:01PM


Rate: 36 Flag

  Justis-Splash 2

Splash 2007, aluminum, suede fabric and wood under-structure, 56” h x 142” L x 28” w


In the mid-career point of an artist, there are still a few delighted moments occurring in the act of making. Ideas for objects and sculpture still pop up with the same frequency as they did in the early days, but now I am more discriminating, cataloging fewer concepts, but developing the vital ones more assiduously. The work usually comes out of curiosity in the continuing processes of studio practice, and from things one sees in books and in the world.


In the fabrication of Splash, 2007, there was an attempt to inform space around the actual work as I experimenting with a kind of floor ornamentation. I had seen so many variations on the traditional jewelry brooch worn by individuals it seemed natural to enlarge it and move it to the floor. This established a modified functionality for the work, not because of it’s altered size as much as by the attachment to the floor. Architectural space becomes the body, which was a new way for me to see the potential of space.


With much of my work, the processes of thought during the building yields more and more ideas that ply with some urgency onto the original concept. I have always tried to let this happen without resistance, trusting the creative process to inform the work in the truest way. In the case of Splash, I eventually decided the form could not simply be an enlarged piece of jewelry, but rather a comic suggestion of some object or event from the natural world and from dramatic interpretations of the natural world; in this case, a stylized depiction of water. I was interested in two wood-block prints: Navaro Rapids, 1855 by the Japanese Master Printmaker Hiroshige, along with the famous Hokusai wood block print called The Great Wave, 1831.


The Great Wave off Kanagawa

  The Great Wave off Kanagawa, woodblock print by Hokusai, 1831  image source: Wikipedia


In these images, water becomes substantive and spatial, nonetheless expressing great power in the imagination as the viewer mindfully continues the water’s kinetic force. The transitory quality forces a narrative, giving us expectations about a mysterious, mutable landscape. Splash suggests a kinetic substantiation of a floppy landscape. In viewing the piece there is (for some) a high-spirited hope in sharing an interior space with a feisty, electric blue presence. The surface easily shows traces of marks left by viewers, thus suggesting, to some extent, the mutability of liquids.


Splash 1

Splash  2007, aluminum, suede fabric and wood under-structure, 56” h x 142” L x 28” w


Justis-Splash detail

Splash  2007, detail


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Thanks, Gary. It's 100 degrees in Oklahoma and I needed something cool and refreshing. Now, there's another way of looking at this. Imagine someone lying supine on the beach with his heels buried in the sand. The feet are splayed outward. You're looking at the bottoms of the feet. You see the big toes, the second toes, and half of the third toes. Interesting, huh? The waves are perfectly "toe-shaped." (Remember, Gary, you're the one who taught us to look at things in unusual ways.) This excellent creation invites such a perspective. Regardless of the perspective, the effect is relaxing and cool. I really like this. Great post, Gary.
Gary, what a great contribution to the MADE series here and a great piece of sculpture! I liked reading the background of the work and the creative process involved.
I love this piece, Gary. What are the dimensions?

Love this. Where does it live now?
How terrific, Gary! I loved reading about and considering the references for this piece (inspirations). I also love looking at the shapes (positive and negative) to consider the impact and the force of the energies that cause this particular displacement of the water.
Great color...the suede would probably both seduce me closer and then make me laugh with delight at the relative whimsy in the context of the subject. How fun...Thanks for this!!! r Do you have any pix w you in the frames to give us an idea of relative scale? ;}
ps...Happy EP. Love Hokusai and Hiroshige and sumi ink paintings and more. ;}
Steve...of all the folks on this great forum, I knew you would see that right away!!!!! I'm grateful you came by! Stay cool...well, you are all the time anyway (in the best "Beat" sense that is)

thank you Stella...likewise always friend...

Good to see you designanator! Your support is greatly appreciated.

Hi Lezlie, the size is 56” h x 142” L x 28” w. thanks so much for stopping in.
Like Steve Blevins, I enjoyed this on a hot (though not as hot as Oklahoma) summer day!
Great foot work! Seriously, I'm an art a holic -- always at one museum or another. This is one of the best pieces I have seen in a long time. Is it on display? God, I love talent! Wish I had some.
(It didn't take the editors too long to latch on to this post, did it? Well deserved.)
Hi Julie, It lives wrapped up in my studio. Guess I’ll just have to take it out and enjoy it again. Thanks for coming by Julie!

Muse, I was hoping the photos would convey the movement a little, it is a kind of cartoon rendering of a splash. The suede was a very happy choice for the surface. You can quite easily “sculpt” the surface to match the suggested movement of the mass itself. I use a suede brush when it is shown, drawing patterns on the surface.
Thanks so much for the visit!....twice!

Hi Steve (Procopius)! Good! In Illinois we have it almost as bad don’t we?......well, maybe not. I called Kansas yesterday and it was 109 near Wichita on Tuesday.
Thanks for the visit.

Donna, It is stored for now. It was in a Museum show in Illinois in 2009. The show received a review in Art in America. Thanks for the visit Donna!

Hello again Steve…yes, and I am very grateful they gave this the nod. Thanks Steve…
I was just going to say what Steve said! In the frontal view, I saw the big, blue huggable toes of a Shrek-love-monster, of feet half buried in sand. And with the top of the big toes being just abit shorter then me it compels my kinetic force toward draping my body off, around, through and against it. Not the usual response Art evokes from me, but a lot more fun.
Loved your writing too.
Fascinating inside info, and a wonderful art piece. Perfect antidote for a hot August day.

(And did you know that your TA Cary is in a show at the New Museum, in NY?)
Maria, I like to work with a kind of cross-over representation sometimes. Like the work has its own hidden life sometimes. It's meant to be touched and the surface manipulated. thanks for coming by!

Lea, Hello, yes, you mentioned about Cary and I am totally thrilled for him. You must be proud...I have to say you are a very talented family! Thanks for the comment Lea!
Wow! Love to see your work featured on the cover.
This is remarkable.
I havwe never used the beautiful brush you sent me for my prise for the writing contest. I still have it on a shelf in my living room--looking at it now. Love it and you.
This work reminds me of a dream I had....I was in the car at a stoplight and I looked at the sky...and it was very like the woodblock print you have posted....only real....the honor of your work opens the mind....xox
Gary, I love this. What a magnificent piece.
I saw this picture and was instantly attracted to its good vibes. As a fan of Japanese prints I like it even more knowing its inspirations. Well done.
I see the waves! very cool. I also see two big toes with two index toes. Love the suede idea.
Really nice post, congrats on the various kudos you've gotten....
I've loved Hokusai's woodblock print for ages, it couldn't be more exquisite.
Beyond neat as hell. Rated!
The suede on this piece plays an interesting textural pattern that changes with the light. At first it almost looked as if it was made of balloon material and inflated. Always enjoy looking at your work, and I'm excited about this new "made" series.
Very interesting work of art, but what I really liked was the thought-process you put into it. I always wondered what goes throught an artist's mind as he creates.

BTW, in the biggest of the two water spots on the right hand section it looks like there is a latent image of a clown face on it. Maybe it's just me.

Spectacular, lively and fun. Love the blue suede, Elvis!
Gary! So nice to see you on the cover, my friend. :)

What a cool sculpture. The texture gives such movement to the "splash" (which I honestly thought were feet the first time I saw it.) Something about it makes me want to touch it. As is the case with all good art, the appeal is multi-faceted and ever-changing. Nice work, Gary!
"The surface easily shows traces of marks left by viewers, thus suggesting, to some extent, the mutability of liquids."

so very creative and special - thank you for sharing
Wonderful, this took me by surprise. I like it. It reminds me of some pieces by a modern artist, I am forgetting the name. It is orange and blue and white maybe a Calder, but I cannot find on google the picture I am seeing in my head, so I am not sure. However, my point is that your piece is very beautiful and the blue exciting. I wonder if you could affix some brown velvet over parts of it and re-expose it as the gulf after bp. Thank you for sharing....R
Wow--striking. Love it.
That is gorgeous, both creative and original. I love the negative spaces. Do you have any photos that give an idea of size/scale? R--
I appreciate the explanation but frankly, it just filled me with joy.
mutable landscape...interesting...thanks
In the midst of the summer heatwave, Splash recalls cooling water in mixed media sculpture...
Hello O! I’m delighted you saw the may not need to use the little brush.
I can’t remember the name of yours…

Robin, I hope you are well. Thanks for sharing the part about your dream. Oxox

Hello Kathy. Thanks for the positive reaction to the work.

Sumac, back at cha!!

Harry’s, Thanks! same to you on your engaging satire. Good work!

Hello Michael, Steve spotted the toes early on..

Just, I agree about Hokusai. He had an advanced sense of form, especially fleeting form.

Tink, OK!

Anne, yes, the sued makes an almost “painted”surface, as sued has the nature to shift the light slightly. I like this about the piece very much. I hope to work with that surface more in the future.

Trudge, I saw it too. Maybe it’s still there. Thank for the visit.

Monsieur, the King might have placed this in his Mansion. I would be uncomfortable worrying about his posse doing things to it….(that sounded nasty..sort of..)

Thank you Trilogy

Hello Lisa, it is a touchable piece, regardless of the foot reference.
Thanks for the kind words.

Amanda You’re welcome and thanks for the visit!

Inqiz, I was afraid of blathering on too much, editing was key. Thanks for appreciating.
Sheila, I can see Calder with his whimsical shapes. I wonder if he would have reacted to the BP debacle. Thanks!

Sophieh, thanks!

Hi Dave, it is about 56 inches tall….

Nikki, That makes me glad you see the work that way.

Sheba…you are welcome..I appreciate you coming by.

GH, I was hoping for that.
Hi Gary!
This is a mo0vie gig? Dora? I gotta get back to the sea.
Only a base lowly human wouold foul the earthen sea.
I wish I'd feel at liberty to ramble on and on as a eel.
I best shush up and eat sushi and wild blueberries.
Thanks for not being the gullible deluded pundit.
It seems the false prophet punditry are a tomb.

Thankfully, some teachers forwarn they creep!
Thanks for not performi9ng One Fake Gig Role!
Thanks for not being lead by baloney gibberish!
Some questions are unanswerable. No be ruined.
Why some creeps sell the inner soul? Who know?
Political quacks are remedial if they wish to0 be?
The era we shar45e i8s surly strange indeed. Ills.
Thanks Gary.
Thanks for real hu8mans with care and co0nvey art.
It's Empathy.
I've been thinking of Vadana Shiva. People do forewarn.
You have to be bewildered why we seem to allow such ilk?
I mean`
There are real embodiments and evil personifications`Ruin!
No brown bird pelican would foul the home njest, and`Ruin!
Thanks to You, and other sane folk who tell who's`Madness!
Who's insane?
The TV pundit!
Why ruin Earth?
I'll ask seagulls?
O, ducks quack!
okay? O, shush!
Why? `Um kill!
Politico do kill!
No believe lies!
Go walk beach!

okay. Ba Ba Ba.
Blue lagoon Ba.
Thank Ya again.
Art....Blue Lagoon indeed!......yu, sublime in any language.
Thank you Art..too, indeed.
Gary, I'm a well-established ignoramus when it comes to art, but I loved everything about this post and about "Splash".

It's impossible to look away from. It foments thought and memory and imagination and query ("What caused that splash?"). And I think the use of suede fabric is sheer inspiration.

I loved how your post described the thought and creative process that led to "Splash".

Finally, I'd love to buy "Splash", but I suspect (a) some real art-lover must have snapped it up in seconds and (b) I probably couldn't afford it anyway.

Well done!
Thanks for this refreshing post; especially on a hot, hot day.

I'm impressed with your ability to articulate your artistic process, almost as much as the results of that process
It's the sort of art I dream of putting in my modern dream house.