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Omaha Magazine

Towering Presence

Jun 01, 2014 01:29PM ● By Kristen Hoffman
This has been a banner year for Justin Beller. The 38-year-old Benson-based artist has completed several major private, non-profit, and corporate commissions, been picked up by two art galleries, purchased a home, opened a new studio, and he’s getting married this month.

Of course, it’s only May, so a lot more may happen—especially given the increasing visibility the artist is enjoying thanks to his distinctive abstract paintings, geometric installations, and soaring towers, works that all incorporate dramatic lines, angular planes, and color fields both vibrant and muted by turns.

A full-time studio artist since 2009, Beller has been developing a keenly unique style. His earlier paintings had an ethereal, otherworldly feel, one that often replicated water-like surfaces and wide-open skies. In recent years, his work has become stronger and more confident—bigger, bolder, brighter—all indications that he’s maturing as an artist and bringing his work in new and exciting directions.

The artist has also expanded his work beyond paintings, creating three-dimensional works that aren’t readily definable as sculptures, but rather exist as hybrids between the two. These elongated, free-standing towers and tapered wall installations are distinctive for their ability to magnify space without taking it up, blending seamlessly into surrounding interior landscapes, whether a 1,000-square-foot living room or an expansive corporate lobby.

Beller credits his ongoing maturation to both the amount of time he logs in studio, semi-eponymously called Studio B, as well as his relationship with his soon-to-be wife, Katie. “I have a really strong work ethic. Even when I’m not working, I’m working,” he remarks. “I’m pushing the envelope. I’m experimenting with texture and shape and playing shadows off shapes. My techniques have grown. I approach pieces with more knowledge in the back of my head, and I’m keeping the work more classic.”

As for his fiancé, the artist muses, “Katie has really changed me as a painter. She’s so soft, and she’s added a softness to my work. It’s part of being in love and getting married, I suppose.” The effects of both are clearly resonating. In recent months, several high-profile clients have commissioned Beller to create custom pieces. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln purchased four pieces for its campus —two for its Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery and two for a student dormitory center. Gordman’s installed one his 8-foot towers in its new corporate headquarters in Aksarben Village. These commissions join others at locations such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dundee Dental, Aristotle Group, Kohl’s Pharmacy, Proxibid, the Orthodontic Group, and Huber Automotive. Additionally, Moberg Gallery picked up the artist’s work for both its Des Moines and Chicago locations, and Daniel Hyland, a well-known interior designer with Clodagh Design in New York, has begun placing Beller’s works with clients.

The artist, though, doesn’t need to look far afield for collectors. His work is increasingly sought after, and Beller prides himself on creating work that collectors aren’t just happy with, but that they love. “I want to keep the work special and for it to be a gem for my clients,” he emphasizes.

Molly and Mike Erftmier are two of Beller’s most recent collectors. They began by purchasing one piece for their new home, and then decided on three more. All four are distinct stylistically and not readily identifiable as having been created by one artist. “I love his work. I’ve never seen anything like it,” enthuses Molly when explaining why the couple decided to include so many pieces in their home. “I love the way he incorporates techniques. If you looked at the four pieces, you wouldn’t say they’re by the same artist. They are all unique.”

Indeed, they are radically different in conception and articulation and serve as ideal examples of Beller’s wide-ranging artistic vision. On one end of the spectrum is a three-part rectangular piece composed of lines of shiny black and cloud gray. The sections interlock and almost give the impression of a magical puzzle box. On the other side is a long, thin hanging tower with muted colors painted in fine, threadlike strokes that blur into one another to create a contemplative effect. Then, there are the studies in contrast: one painting that features vibrantly primary colors while the other is created out of soft russet tones and light, earthy browns.

In reflecting upon recent months, Beller smiles. “Everything’s been going well,” he says. “I have an eye to the future, though. The next phase is to start a family.” For the artist, that will most likely be his most challenging and rewarding work to date, one that will eclipse even the best of everything that’s occurred thus far.

And in 2014, that’s saying a lot.