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Steve Joy

Born in Plymouth, England, in 1952, Joy served in the Royal Air Force from 1968 to 1975, visiting museums and cultural sights on his furloughs. In 1975, he enrolled in art school in London. His earliest works — oil paintings on canvas, some with three-dimensional projections — reflected his desire to escape from the mundane by continued travel. Later, inspired by American Abstract Expressionists such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, Joy sought to break away from the formal aspects of contemporary British painting. Realizing the inherent limitations of abstraction, however, Joy noted, “The only way abstract painting had any chance of survival was to take on the great issues of history.” By a combination of travel and painting, he has made a career of this personal journey. He is committed to the idea of spiritual abstraction and the development of painting and its history from the 15th century to today. Influences from the past include the art of Duccio, Giotto, Velasquez, and Matisse.

Joy has studied and worked on three continents, in Japan, Belgium, Italy, Norway, Greece, Spain, and now, more permanently, in Omaha, where he first arrived as the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts’ curator in 1998 and where he is one of a group of artists with international reputations working in Omaha.

Joy’s technique and his choice of media have evolved over the years. He creates using rich, saturated colors, squares of gold and silver leaf, and wax. His paintings also reflect a vivid sense of geometry and proportion. Several are punctuated with words as part of the composition. The totality reflects Joy’s fascination with exotic cultures, religions, and the great religious works of the history of art, in particular Orthodox icon painting and western European medieval works.