The Art of Memory – Bill Armstrong – Ep 49
September 28, 2022
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
Why does a memory always seem a little blurry and slightly soft-edged when we look back in time? It feels like reality. It is familiar but oddly just beyond our grasp. Memories are places beyond the veil of presence that are wonderfully and not so easily defined. Just thinking about this notion begins to lift us out of our day-to-day experience like a balloon slipped from its tether, rising slowly, magically up into the blue.
Today on the podcast, we are talking with Manhattan-based artist Bill Armstrong. He utilizes repurposed imagery, abstraction, simplification, and blur to create his art. The gorgeous images are startling in their presence. They serve as a beautiful invitation for us all to feel more deeply the emotional, transcendent nature of our lives. Join me now for this illuminating conversation with Bill. I think you will find his work not only unforgettable (I can’t stop thinking of them) but also so, so beautifully transporting.
Listen if you are interested in…
- How Bill found his creative fire and became a photographer [2:48]
- Bill’s path to metaphorical photography [7:08]
- Gaining clarity on Bill’s signature blurry style [15:31]
- The logistics of Bill’s art practice [23:13]
- The role of color and size in Bill’s work [30:22]
- How spirituality impacts Bill’s art-making and what lights him up when people connect with his work [35:00]
- The road ahead for Bill and final thoughts [42:37]
Follow the breadcrumbs
I love talking to people with thriving art practices who never thought they would be artists. The best part of those conversations is piecing together all the breadcrumbs that led them to where they are today. Bill Armstrong always wanted to be a writer. He pictured himself typing away in a cabin cozily nestled beside a warm fire for all his days. But as it turned out, Bill didn’t have anything to write about back then! It wasn’t until a trip to South America in the mid-1970s that he would begin to discover his art. Bill’s friend and photographer Roger Farrington accompanied him on this trip and gave him a crash course in photography. After a simple lesson, Bill caught on quickly and got his first taste of artistic passion affirmed by beautiful results once the photos were developed.
Break the rules
Within the structures of institutionalized art, there are many rules designed to determine what is and isn’t considered art. These rules often make it inside textbooks, classrooms, galleries, and even the minds of artists. While I’m not opposed to structure, I do not believe any one person or group of people gets to define our art or what it means to us and others. This is a lesson Bill learned early on as he began his journey as a photographer. At first, he had all these rules in his head about what he was allowed to do with his work. He couldn’t crop. He couldn’t manipulate. Everything was about capturing a single moment exactly as it was. Of course, that is a beautiful and poignant style of photography, but it’s not the only one. And it certainly was not for Bill. Find out how Bill developed his signature style by listening to this episode!
Blur the lines
When an image becomes blurry, it is no longer specific. It becomes bigger than itself. Novels can be written in the gaps left by an absence of detail, which is why blurriness is one of Bill Armstrong’s greatest art-making tools. When I look at his art, I am instantly reminded of a dream-like state. These colorful and slightly out-of-focus pieces evoke feelings both foreign and familiar. Much as dreams do. Even if we can’t remember all the details of a dream, we often have a vague idea, and we definitely remember the feeling. This is where the rich, deep universality of Bill’s work comes from. We can all relate to something being just out of reach. Whether it’s a concept in our heads, a life goal, or the dream we had last night. Yet similarly, what’s captivating about Bill’s art is the longer you focus on it, the clearer its personal meaning becomes.
Resources & People Mentioned
- Roger Farrington (Photographer)
- David Levinthal (Photographer)
- Quarantine: Artists and Writers on Isolation by Bill Armstrong
Connect with Bill Armstrong
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.