Based around an investigation of the unique characteristics of small-town life and the rural landscape, Justin Colt Beckman’s work explores the dichotomy of urban and rural cultures and their associated stereotypes. Essentially a city boy with country boy tendencies, he uses design, photography and film, site-specific works, and new-media to engage with and better understand his rural surroundings.
His recent body of work, “How the West Was Won,” explores the typography, symbols and icons that seem to shape our collective memory of the Wild West, and questions the accuracy of staged historic records and embellished folklore that have been told from the lenses of white patriarchal storytellers.
Works in this series juxtapose contrasting subjects, such as atomic clouds and Native Americans, or cowboys and B-52 Bombers, as a way to reinterpret the story of the American Union’s expansion into the Western Territories.
Beckman received a BFA from Art Center College of design in 1998 and an MFA from Central Washington University in 2008. He is an assistant professor of graphic design at CWU and enjoys a rural lifestyle with a home and studio in the small community of Ellensburg, Washington. He is a founding member of PUNCH Gallery, an artist-run space in Seattle’s Pioneer Square (2008-2016), and serves as board president for the rural arts collective PUNCH Projects.
Beckman has exhibited work both locally and nationally including Art Share in Los Angeles, CA; The Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; G.A.S.P. in Boston, MA; Tacoma Art Museum’s 8th Northwest Biennial; The Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, and 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, NY. He is a past recipient of an Artist Trust Gap Grant and a 4-Culture Site-Specific Project Grant, and has work in the permanent collection at Tacoma Art Museum.