By Suzanne Takowsky
LOOK—UP ON THE HARLEY!
It’s Superman? It’s Elvis? NO! It’s cosmic super artist extraordinaire Jack Armstrong. His entrances are definitely over-the-top and his Hollywood swagger is beyond jaw-dropping, but there is more to this 6 foot-big muscle-cool hair-sweet talking dude than just his flamboyant wardrobe and designer sunglasses. Andy Warhol referred to him as the “Last Wizard” and as it turns out…millions of his fans throughout the world agree that NOBODY does it better than Jack!
It began in a small town on the Arkansas River in Wichita, Kansas where Jack Armstrong was born and raised. He recalls a passion for bright colors and a brush in his hand by age three. In first grade, at age six, he took home his first art award for a brilliantly multi-colored painting he titled, Camelot Castle. And while most kids his age were playing in the back yard, Jack was intently studying with growing passion the works of the greatest artists the world has known, and says the critical influence on his own art was the work of Van Gogh. He headed to New York in 1979, and as fate would have it during an outing at Bloomingdales one afternoon, he bumped smack into one of his idols—Andy Warhol. He says about meeting Warhol…”It was just neat to be a young artist accepted by the most famous artist of his time. Back then I was doing stuff that was way more splashy than I am now. But Warhol liked my painting and he liked me.” By the time the 90s rolled around Jack had perfected a style all his own—one that is hard to overlook. He christened it—Cosmic Extensionalism and he vowed that during his career he would only execute 100 works on canvas.
Along with his paintings (collectors pieces that range in price from $300,000.00 to $3 million dollars), in 2009 and 2012 Jack published three art books containing the full library of his 100 paintings. His brush style casts an infinite prism of extreme light and color that offers a good presentation of why he chose the word “cosmic” to describe his life’s passion. Warhol told him, “It is more alchemy than art.” Jack travels the world showcasing his brush stroke genius and these days his paint strokes target more than canvas. His latest artistic venture is by all standards in keeping with his bigger than life need to take the world by surprise. It’s a million dollar, one-of-a-kind Harley that fans and critics throughout the world agree just might be his biggest Cosmic expression to date. But choosing a motorcycle to paint was no accident.
“I’ve raced off-road motorcycles since I was 13-years-old and I rode my first Harley Davidson in Chicago when I was 16,” he says. “I felt like a Rock Star when I rode a Harley…I felt like I was Steve McQueen. I love the chrome, the paint and especially the sound. I decided years ago to paint and create my own cosmic brand and after telling Warhol about my idea (mid 80s) he was intrigued enough to proclaim that after he was no longer painting I would become in his words, “the last wizard” of art. I told him if I had a chance to paint a really expensive motorcycle it had to be a Harley. He loved the idea when I said someday…I would paint a million dollar BIKE! Artist
In 2010, Harley Davidson asked me to create a unique motorcycle. I said I would, but it had to be priced at a million or more. They agreed. I spent six months creating something that looked like it had traveled from the stars to earth. I could only name it, “The Cosmic Starship Harley-Davidson!”
Jack has not only traveled the world for his art, but has lived in London, Paris and Switzerland. He says that painting in the South of France was one of his most inspiring experiences because it’s where Van Gogh and Gauguin painted. “That was a mythical time in my life where the paintings and light brought magic to my work. I believe that clear, bright light brings something special to the artist who paints outdoors. I’ve never painted any cosmic paintings inside—EVER!” Jack says he will always maintain a residence in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs, but in the works he will open the Armstrong Gallery for American Artists in Fayettville Arkansas this summer. Located a 30-minute drive south of Bentonvillle Arkansas, the hometown of Alice Walton, where in 1962 her father Sam Walton started the Walton 5-10 Cent store that later became Walmart. Jack says that Ms. Walton recently put the final touches on the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art—a $1.2 billion dollar/nine year project that has garnered rave reviews around the world. Like Ms. Walton, he believes NW Arkansas will become a future artist Mecca; it is already a major stop on the international museum scene.
“Opening a gallery where I exhibit the most cutting-edge, contemporary art in the world will not only be a sensation, but encourage undiscovered, talented artists to submit their work. Leo Castelli and Ivan Karp, the two most famous U.S. dealers of the 60s, 70s and early 80s discovered most of the big names of that period, and loved to meet and critique artists for possible exhibits. That no longer exists in big name galleries, offering NO hope to young artists. I will help change that current situation, and as a successful artist I will help future stars of the art world get a break. In the last year and a half I do see a change in major collectors like Victor Pinchuk, who created a museum in Russia and buys directly from artists, instead of dealers; exactly what Ms. Walton is doing. This a major shift in how high-end art is sold and collected. Finally, extremely talented artists rising to the top will be able to make a living while they are still alive— rather than after they have passed on.”
Jack’s reputation for the marvelous has grown internationally to the extent that his “Rock Star” status in the world of splashy art is legendary. He is the first American artist to be featured by FineArtsTV-Europe.com. Renowned collectors including Alice Walton, Michel Polnareff and Narendra Patel among others have acquired pieces from Jack. And indeed, his just released third coffee table art book—Cosmic Star Trip—is proving to be an international hit. The soft bound, 46 page, 18×12 laminated front and back covers display Jack’s full range of spectacular color. The Limited Edition 3-book collection retails for $1000.
With all of his success I had to ask…WHY STOP AT 100 PAINTINGS? He said, “100 is a mystical thing. Everyone wants to live to be 100. And, only 100 people on this planet will own a Jack Armstrong painting. The fact that there are only 100 of my paintings allows me to say truthfully that I never repeated myself and I never will.” AND WHAT ABOUT THIS SUPER SONIC-SUPER STEALTH HARLEY? “This Harley-Davidson was the most exciting painting I’ve ever done. Even though the canvas was metal, it was a canvas and this is a painting. I love the fact people all over the world who have never heard of me or of Cosmic Extensionalism have heard of Harley-Davidson.” And the legend continues………