Joel Nickel

Joel Nickel is a retired Lutheran pastor living in Salem, Oregon. He served parishes in Detroit, MI, Chicago and Champaign, Illinois, and Stayton, Oregon for a total of 45 years. Along the way he nourished his interest in visual art by studying at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, Parkland College, the Oregon School of Arts & Crafts, and significant workshops at the Grünewald Guild in Plains, Washington with the enamelist, Jean Tudor. He has always sought to bring together the visual and the verbal, image and text, graphics and speech, art and the spiritual in his work, a merger of intuition, imagination and logic. His artistic work continues full time.

I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember, fascinated by the visual landscape, the sound of music, the smell of oil paints and lumber, a visit to a hardware store as well as an art museum, and the overwhelming urge to make things using whatever material was at hand. This urge was often in conjunction with the need to communicate a vision, an insight, a message, or simply an awareness of the miracle of love in the presence of life.

For many years I’ve been attracted to the work of the German Expressionists, especially their biblical images–Otto Dix, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Ernst Barlach, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Max Beckmann. Their resistance to the idolatry of the Third Reich and their colorful, strong graphic images impressed me. Willem deKooning and Richard Diebenkorn are heirs to Picasso and Matisse, passing on to us their talent with line and color. The late work of Stuart Davis (the American cubist) always grabs my attention. We incorporate the work of those who go before us.

Art that maintains a dialogue with religion isn’t popular these days, but, then, much art which is devoid of the spiritual is shallow and trite. The major life questions–why are we here, how did we get here, and where are we going–have a deep theological component which I hope finds its place in my art. At the same time, I attempt to bring the modern complexities of color and form into my work.


One in the Same ~ 40 x 18 x 6 ~ Totem Shriver ~ #115

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