Artist Conversation: Justin Rightsell

Alexandra Bronte Newe

Week 3, B3 Artist Conversation

Artist: Justin Rightsell

Exhibition: Two Works

Media: Photography, Alchemy,

Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West


Justin Rightsell is a former alumni at California State University, Long Beach. He graduated in 2011 with a BA in fine arts, specifically photography. Rightsell finds his niche in universal language. He believes that through his art, he can communicate a feeling that cannot be identified through communication. Rathe it is something that we can all feel internally. Rightsell has been working with photographs and chemicals to alter images, as well as using the natural elements to give a certain effect to a piece of his. His work delves deep into the emotional side of humanity. The side that needs no label or language, the side that is universally understood.

As far as his actual exhibit goes, Rightsell showcased 4 pieces in the CSULB Gallery. The title of his exhibit was “Two Works”. Immediately the first thing that caught my attention was the three 25 ft long photo strips. Each strip was on the wall laid horizontally, stacking up on top of each other. It was beautiful and consisted of black, blue, gold, and green swirling and fighting each other on the photo. It reminded me of when I travelled to Utah and went outside at night to see the milky way galaxy. The second part of his exhibit was a very aesthetic setup. It consisted of two shelves. On the bottom shelf, 8 books were stacked and on top was a pile of dirt and moss. Sitting atop the moss was a glass jar. Stacked on top of the jar was a movie case. Finally atop this case was thick bound sage incense. On the top shelf was a magazine severely burnt. This burning effect created a beautiful rose-like pattern as there were many layers to the magazine. This was indicative of chemical burns as opposed to combustive burning. On the left hand side of the shelf installation was a white, distressed photograph. The center of it was blue and grey faded with chemical distression, adding a milky tone to the entirety of the work. The third piece was similar to the first installation, however the photograph was hung and was red, brown, yellow, and gold. The fourth exhibit was similar to the long galactic photographs, however the pieces on this one were about 4 feet each and hung vertically as opposed to horizontally. The chemical distressing was much more linear, however the bright blue and gold hues remained consistent with the latter piece.

The star piece in the exhibit was the several long photographs that took up a majority of the exhibit space. It was encapsulating and I immediately got this feeling of oblivion. I felt so small compared to this vast array of colors reminiscent of the universe. This is exactly what Rightsell wanted us to feel as he explained, “I want this to be something that everyone can relate to on a metaphysical level outside of space and time” (Rightsell). Rightsell seemed to really be passionate about his idea that art should invoke a feeling that needs no description. He says, “I am used to my every move being judged and I know it seems a strange to most at first but I feel like I am tapping into this universal language” (Rightsell). Whether a work of art is referential to something or grandiose like a wall of fire, it should capture your attention more than something you can read and don’t understand.

Like I said earlier, the type of art that Rightsell produces really resonates within me. I live for aesthetics such as the shelf installations and nature infused work. As well as the immense photographs. They reminded me of the time at which I was in a state of chaotic peace. I went out to Arches national park in Utah at night, where there is little to no light pollution and saw the universe. It was so full of life and color and it made me feel both abandoned and protected. Something so vast and unidentifiable such as the universe does not require an explanation, it is just felt.

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