Joel D. Sager (b. 1980) is a contemporary American painter of landscapes, still-life and portraiture. Often drawing on such standard subject matter with economy and singularity— a solitary figure in a room or misplaced sock on a bed— the conceptual element of his work becomes a contemplation on meaning for even the simplest objects: person, place, or thing. 

Sager's process often involves a distinctive mixture of media, incorporating tar with oil pigments, or wallpaper with squid ink, or graphite and cut paper.  Through these unique media compositions, Sager's paintings create a new voice on fundamental elements handed down from art history. 

Sager’s work has been shown internationally from Hollywood, California to Yokohama, Japan and can be found in both private and corporate collections. His paintings have been seen in print at True/False Film Fest and in the publications of Persea Books, New York. Sager resides with his family in Columbia, Missouri. 


This spring, Joel Sager continues the thread of his previous two series with new, illustrative vignettes in ink and graphite, atop found objects and in antique frames. Where the first of these bodies of work mimicked sinister storybook illustrations and the second focused on allusion to nautical motifs, this newest series zooms in on individual characters, presented almost as cast members from a circus. The limited use of banner text both roots the subjects in a vintage fair setting and subverts viewers’ expectations a bit, turning everyday people, traits, and objects into icons. Sager pokes fun at stereotypes via pun and exaggeration in these works, yet with an attentiveness that reveals a little nostalgia and tenderness for the subjects.


In this series of ink and pencil drawings on found objects and paper, Joel Sager refers to nautical iconography while building a sense of narrative. Like his previous series, these works seem to be illustrations disembodied from an antique tome, the sense of history aided by the incorporation of found, vintage objects. The combination of tightly controlled ink line drawing and tattoo-like application is supplemented with graphite gradients, so that the finished composition, while alluding to other processes such as etching, mezzotint, scrimshaw, and tattooing, has a value range and line quality not quite achievable with any one of these other media. 


In his newest series, Joel Sager has created illustrative vignettes in ink and graphite, atop found antique photographs and ephemera. These substrates alone do much to elicit nostalgia, but Sager builds on the history of the object-surfaces with drawings that evoke, via both style and subject, a sense of aged, storybook wisdom. The narrative illustrated is none of an extant text, but from the artist’s imaginations associated with his found objects and images. While whimsy is certainly not absent this series, the drawings are actually vessels for something a bit sinister, akin to the Grimm Brothers’ allusion to darker human tendencies embodied as wolves or witches.


In his latest series, Joel Sager brings a new combination of media and technique to familiar subject matter.  These rural structures are built via meticulous collage atop mixed-media landscapes of painted photo-transfer, lending the entire composition a sharpness of focus, with precision reminiscent of early photographic processes. Just as the barns of the Missouri landscape that were already weathered when Sager’s generation explored them as children, these structures are visibly aged and deteriorating, housing literal and figurative decay and mystery. Like much of Sager’s work - and like memory in general - these scenes are tinged with darkness that hints at loss and questions our ability to hold on to the past, even when it is captured in an image.

2016 Late Summer Exhibit

Joel Sager returns to portraiture in his latest series of oil, tar, and wax paintings.  Executed on wood panel, like cathedral altar pieces from the middle ages, there is a static quality in each subject’s pose, reminiscent of early depictions of Adam and Eve.  However, vitality is compensated through exaggerated features: rosy ears or glassy eyes.  The models are expressionless in profile, and have been captured in a moment of contemplative vacancy, but in this vulnerability the viewer cannot help but seek to glean insight into the psychology or mood of the subject.  A solitary depiction of a butterfly serves as a tandem visual element to each portrait.  While they are an aesthetic garnish for the series, their context is equally as important as any of the model features, each a preserved specimen of tenor and vignette.  


Joel Sager’s latest series is an obvious nod to early naturalist renderings of flora and fauna, but with corresponding detritus found along the way wryly included within each image.  With a folk art feel and emphasis of design over spatial perspective, the oil paintings have been rendered on parchment and then shellacked with sailboat varnish to wood panel, adding another layer to the sense of enshrined anachronism.   Environmental implications aside, they are documentation with levity and an inspired display of the line so often blurred between art and science by way of methodical observation.  

2016 Spring Exhibit

2016 Late Winter Exhibit

2016 Winter Exhibit


2015 Late Summer Exhibit


2015 Spring Exhibit