Justin Poulsen, 24, is a recent graduate of the Alberta College of Art and Design whose beginnings in photography came about through filming skateboarding videos in his youth. Poulsen specializes in still life photography, but also dabbles in architecture. “The two tend to complement one another.” In the about section of his Facebook page one will find the terse summary, “I shoot dead things,” perhaps an ironic play-on-words as his description is anything but overkill. In congruence with his art, which may initially appear just as straightforward, there is much more complexity behind each piece than the humor it evokes.
The Sochi medal was taken during a photo shoot with a Kaillie Humphries, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in bobsledding from Calgary. “We take a lot of pride in the Winter Olympics. It’s kind of our thing,” said Poulsen. The background for the still life was actually taken from the top of Ha Ling Peak in Alberta, the first mountain that Poulsen had ever climbed. The Levi’s in The 501 Chair were Poulsen’s own that he had worn for an impressive five years without washing, instead freezing them to kill the bacteria. “I had worn them completely out, but I wanted to preserve them.” This image also speaks to Poulsen’s environmentalist bent that he incorporates in much of his art. The floating piece of earth with the Exon station and Hummer was inspired by the film Who Killed the Electric Car (2006) directed by Chris Paine.
Melting Point, wherein seven army men are melting in a cast iron skillet is a message concerning PTSD in returning soldiers. “Everyone reacts differently to war, and people have different melting points. There is no single treatment for PTSD,” says Poulsen. Finally, Spagheadi so appropriately named after the head sculpture made of spaghetti noodles and pasta sauce was one of the first images uploaded for Poulsen’s Instagram account. “I wanted to post a picture that is not your typical pretty Instagram meal. I guess I was trying to subvert the norm,” an idea evident in all of his work.
Much of Poulsen’s art is done to preserve and enjoy the process, foregoing stock imagery whenever possible. In Alberta Tree Movers, the hive was constructed of paper maché, and the bees surrounding the hive were actual preserved bees that Poulsen had acquired with the help from a friend who is also a jewelry artist specializing in bugs and insects. The squirrel captured for the second image was lured in with peanuts. In describing his style, he said that much of what he does is what we are taught in our art classes at a young age. “A large portion of my work involves rudimentary painting and paper maché, but through digital means I’m able to refine and polish the imagery to my desired finish.” Playing with one’s food takes on a whole new meaning in Spagheadi .
What’s next? An environmental skateboard project that will play on Poulsen’s beginnings in art.