We had the good fortune of connecting with Joy Redstone and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joy, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I believe in taking risks. I have never let the fear of failure stop me from trying to pursue my dreams, even though obviously I have not succeeded in everything I have tried. I do analyze situations and try to understand what the risks and benefits of particular decision might be, but once that analysis is complete, I take action. There’s been a couple moments when I have taken the more risky “road less traveled” path in terms of my career. For example, leaving a job at Denver Health to run a day shelter in boulder… although it may have looked more risky, I learned a tremendous amount, helped a lot of people and it opened many other doors in my life.
To be honest, before I publish a piece of writing, hang a show or in any way put myself in the public eye, I experience excruciating self-doubt. It feels risky to be seen through my art, as my work is deeply personal, often transforming traumatic experiences into moments of resilience. But the wish and need to communicate through art is so intense that I brave the internal monologue in order to experience that moment of seeing someone deeply connect to my art.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Seven years ago, I experienced a bereavement which brought me to my knees. In the time that followed, a transformation began. My eyes saw the tiniest of objects and my hands placed them in patterns that spoke to me about my experiences.
Irrepressible joy and unquenchable sorrow have touched my life, and pour through my hands into each piece of art. They visit us all. I can only tell my story in fragments, as befits a person who fragmented before she knew what is was to be whole and rushed into the world with her broken pieces in outstretched hands, seeking. My art is for all the people who know what it means to shiver with the intensity of the desire to die, who laughed at the darkness while paying homage to it as well, yet who find the will to stay and the courage to choose here. My art is for those that choose now, those who choose the sunrise, the moon set, the owls call, the laughter of coyotes, and to peer through the warmly lit windows of a home knowing that they have never known home, to choose the warm and musky smell of their children’s hair.
I believe that one of the things what sets me apart from others is my choice of materials and it is one of the things that brings me great pleasure in my daily life. As I walk through the world, I am engaged with natural objects in a mindful way, looking at them with eyes that see the magical forms in stumps of wood, or the glint of a piece of a broken glass. I have picked up a lug nut and marveled at its shiny symmetry. When I am at home, and a glass or a piece of jewelry breaks, the first thought that occurs is how it might be used in art. Tea cups, broken pot lids, bullet casings, and old children’s toys have all found their way into my art.
My path has not been easy. It includes an abusive childhood, family with mental illnesses, my own PTSD and many challenges as an adult, including poverty, health problems and my husband’s suicide. However, it has all become fuel for my art. And the determination that led me to surmount those challenges, have a successful career, and to have the courage to start creating art (without any formal training) is a gift from those difficult times. Art has now become the vehicle for my healing, as many of my experiences are dark enough that they are hard to explain in words, and indeed, I do not want to inflict those words on others. When I am making art about such experiences, the metaphor releases the pain. Each symbolic aspect of the art speaks to an aspect of the experience, and as the imagery becomes clearer, my perspective gains clarity as well. Ultimately, art helps me to make existential sense of my own suffering and of the suffering of others. They say that sorrow carves us deeply, but that joy can fill up those places to the same extent. I find that to be true, although I might say that art fills the places that grief left empty.
I want the world to know that I have chosen life, expression, creativity and happiness despite every reason not to. Each work of art is a celebration of the beauty of daily existence.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would show them so much beauty! First, I would take them to the Dushanbe Teahouse and then to the mountains. I would take them to Trail Ridge Road– every person I have ever taken there succumbs to the grandeur of the mountains and perspective changes when you can see for hundreds of miles. And, because every visitor wants to go to Pearl St, we would most definitely go there. While there, we might shop at Nature’s Own, many of their rocks and minerals have found their way into my art. I would love to take them to Corrida or BlackBelly for amazing food. We would probably need to walk off that rich food, so perhaps a walk at Saw Hill Ponds or the Anne U White trails. These walks by water are good for the soul.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been blessed with many incredible mentors and it is hard to choose, so I will mention the first person that made a huge difference to me.
My first boss Carl was a kind and gentle man with a razor sharp intellect that taught me everything I know about mental health assessment, diagnosis and risk management. I felt seen and valued and we went on to found two outpatient clinics for ex-prisoners with mental illness and histories of violence. I came from a very difficult family situation growing up and it is not an exaggeration to say that he felt like a father to me.
We’re still in touch, and when on a hike last summer he asked me, with a note of mystification, about my art. I explained to him that a door in my heart was opened through bereavement, and that what poured through that door, after the grief dissipated, was pure creativity.