Painter Jay Backstrand has an energetic mind and a passion for looking at the worlds of history and art through his painter’s eye. His enigmatic imagery pulls the viewer into an abstruse and unique mapping of diverse times, people, and experience. The work alludes to a kind of Pop Art vividness, with a master’s interest in beauty and artistic precision. Intoxicatingly seductive, his canvases show off his technical expertise. Playing with color and scale, juxtaposing the familiar with the strange, the artist engages the viewer with a complexity of subject matter. Connecting to our subconscious and contemporary society’s ceaseless exposure to images of all kinds, his assemblages seem ironic and prophetic. Backstrand pulls the viewer into a powerful and multivalent contemporary commentary.
Jay Backstrand studied at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where he later taught art from 1975-1986. He also studied at the Slade School in London as a Fulbright fellow. He has exhibited his work since the 1960s, and in the 1970s was a co-founder of the Portland Center for Visual Arts. In 1984, he was honored with a 10-year retrospective at Marylhurst College, OR, and more recently in the Eighth Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2007. His work is included in the collections of the National Gallery, Washington, DC; the Oxford University Press Print Collection, England; the Portland Art Museum; the Seattle Art Museum; the Tacoma Art Museum; the Henry Gallery at University of Washington; and Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University, Salem, OR. Awards include an NEA grant, an Oregon Arts Foundation grant, and a Smithsonian Institute purchase award.