In College of Fine Arts and Communications, Lectures

To kick off the 2018-19 Faith and Works lecture series, Joe Ostraff shares how his faith in spiritual relationships has influenced his art to be a collaborative experience

Joe Ostraff speaks at November Faith and Works 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.”

“The definition ofthe perfect work of art for me is a piece where people are unified in a way that makes ownership dissolve,” Ostraff said. “We realize that everyone was essential to the work and the final product is owned by everyone.”

One collaborative project Ostraff mentioned was “In the Name,” where students and faculty members traveled around the United States collecting polaroid pictures and audio of people talking about the meaning of their names. Ostraff has worked on many other collaborative art projects meant to break barriers, especially across disciplines, combining dance, music and visual art into works that can no longer be claimed by one person.

Crowd Pumping their fists to “Time to Start”

Although these projects involve many people and address varied issues, Ostraff said, “Most of my art projects are to help me. I see an issue in myself and use art to eradicate it. We are the first patient of our art. It was meant to change us. I hope that as I am involved in collaboration processes I will knock off some of my ruffage in the process.”

During the lecture Ostraff encouraged audience members to stand up, bob heads, pump fists and jump to “Time to Start” by the Blue Man Group, creating a collaborative moment of art. As the audience sat down, Ostraff explained, “These are memories that you will look back to and smile. They are moments that bring people together. Life is filled with mundane events but there are occasional bursts of intense feeling as we interact with others.”

Ostraff left the audience with the advice, “You need to get past worrying about being ‘flashy’ or trying to do what is cool in your art. If I keep making art for the rest of my life I need to do the things that feed and sustain me.”

“My faith sustains my work. I know that when I am alone I am not really alone. I am a part of a larger fabric,” Ostraff said.

Ostraff is the first of five presenters in the Faith and Works Series. Learn more here.

Photos courtesy of Alyssa Lyman

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