Forty-some odd years ago when Justin Gibbens first began moving pencil on paper he was rendering the boyhood standards: dinosaurs, creepy crawlers and other freakish fauna. Not much has changed in four decades. A master draftsman, Gibbens was trained in both scientific illustration and traditional Chinese painting–a skill set that he employs in his subversive zoological drawings. By lifting the formal conventions of classic natural science illustration, he imagines curious and legendary inhabitants of a forgotten natural history through the lens of a 19th century field artist. Gibbens’ stylized and embellished beasts speak of evolution, mutation and biodiversity, and perhaps serve as cautionary tales and stand-ins for our anthropocentric selves. As Gibbens sees it, our world is mysteriously fascinating and amazingly weird, and humankind’s relationship to the animal kingdom is layered, complex and ambiguous. It is through his work that he takes pleasure in celebrating this.
Justin Gibbens received his BA in painting from Central Washington University in 1998 and a Scientific Illustration Certificate from University of Washington in 2003. He is a founding member of PUNCH Projects, a central Washington-based artist collective. Gibbens was the recipient of a 2006 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, a 2008 Artist Trust Fellowship Award and most recently, a McMillen Foundation MAC Fellowship. He is represented by G. Gibson Gallery in Seattle, WA and Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, OR. His work has been collected by Grinnell College, Microsoft, 4Culture/King County, the City of Seattle, the City of Kent, the City of Shoreline, the Washington State Arts Consortium and the Washington State Arts Commission. In addition to his studio practice, Gibbens has begun adapting his images for larger-scale public mural projects. Gibbens lives in rural Thorp, Washington with his dangerously talented wife Renee Adams.