Joe Ostraff | Department of Art
We Breathe the Same Air


Joseph Ostraff is a professor of arts at Brigham Young University. He received a BFA from Brigham Young University in 1982 and an MFA from the University of Washington in 1984. Joseph is married to Melinda Weston. They have six children and eight grandchildren. Melinda is an ethno-botanist. She and Joseph have collaborated extensively over the past thirty years. This interaction has had a deep impact on Joseph’s art practice.

Over the past twenty-five years Joseph has partnered on over thirty collaborative projects, involving over fifty faculty members and over three hundred BYU students from Art, Design, Music, and Dance. These activities have resulted in thirteen international exhibitions, twelve national exhibitions, and five regional exhibitions. As part of these projects, Joseph and his partners have developed significant partnerships with Wirral Met, Liverpool, England; Kau Taha Mataika, Vava’u, Tonga; Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Whakatane, New Zealand; and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, MA. Recent collaborative exhibitions include; Bee In The Bonnet, A Group Exhibition, MCLA Gallery 51, North Adams, MA, Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum, Adams, MA; Woman/Women Exhibit, A Collaborative Exhibition, Human Rights Gallery, The Leonardo, Center, Salt Lake City, UT, Galerie du Centre, Paris, France; Mapping Our Turf, A Group Exhibition, Limerick School of Art & Design, Limerick, Ireland; Western Wilds, A Group Book Arts Exhibition, Contemporary Art Space, Chester University, Chester, UK; Let It Flow, A Collaborative Community Based Installation, Ballinglen Arts Foundation Art Gallery, Ballycastle, County Mayo, Ireland; Manulua Project: A Book Arts Exhibition, Minneapolis Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, MN; Global Echo, Williamson Art Gallery Birkenhead, Wirral Metropolitan College, England; Spectrum Project Space at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia; Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, England. Most recently, Joseph returned from the Heinrich Boll artist residency on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, Ireland, where he and Melinda shared a studio and worked on a series of works on paper.

Faith + Works Lecture Series | Joe Ostraff

BYU Department of Art professor Joe Ostraff focuses on the questions, not the answers, to build his faith.

BYU Department of Art professor Joe Ostraff discusses collaboration and connection between people.

We Breathe the Same Air

November 1, 2018 Lecture

A glass bottle rolling away from a man in the street is an unexpected start to a testimony building collaboration mindset. However, this is the moment that Ostraff points to as the reason he became fascinated in the experiences that bring people together.

As the bottle dropped, a group of business men and woman waiting at the bus stop were drawn into the experience. They inhaled in unison during the moments they were sure the bottle would break, exhaled in relief and rejoiced together when the man finally got his bottle back. Then the bus came. Just as suddenly as this group had been tied together they dispersed.

These fleeting moments of collaboration are what have inspired not only Ostraff’s work, but also his faith. “I have two foundations of my faith,” Ostraff said. “The first is that we are children of heavenly parents and the second is that we are all brothers and sisters here on earth. The result of my faith is that my work celebrates the relationships we have with people.”

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To see other lectures from this series, visit the Faith + Works Lecture Series home page.