Eagle County artist Justin Greshko’s works are natural and naturally intriguing
Justin Greshko is one of the only artists whose artistic vision might have begun through the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
Not so long ago, he was a hunting and fly-fishing guide who made some art on the side. Now, he’s an artist who guides and about his only hunting is for antlers, wood and other material near his home.
Greshko has been collecting antlers and interesting pieces of wood for years and hauling them home.
He has a big stock of what he calls “inventory,” which works out well because he has big ideas.
Greshko’s already working on his next piece, he said, and his next big thing is big. He’s not saying what it is, other than it’s big and he needs a big place to work on it.
THE ACCIDENTAL ARTIST
Greshko is kind of an accidental artist. He earned his college degree in biology and chemistry, but he has always created art. He wandered around Europe with his backpack, living on a shoestring and landed with a family of artists — blacksmiths — in northern Italy. The patriarch of the family took him to several festivals in that part of Europe.
“The authenticity and creativity of what he was doing made a real impression on me,” Greshko said.
In 2006, when he and his wife, Wendy, moved into their new house, he wanted to do something special, so he made some furniture with some of the material he had collected. A few of their friends raved about it, so he decided to try his hand at other pieces.
“With that first piece I got so much encouraging feedback from my friends that I decided to put my back into it,” Greshko said.
Wendy is a graphic artist, and the folks with a Beaver Creek gallery saw some of the promotional materials she put together for her husband, and sold his first couple pieces.
He got a few more jobs, bought some new tools and kept at it.
Completed works begat commissions and more sales, as they often do when you hand your muse a tool and tell her to get busy.
The pieces are largely aquatic and floral scenes, for now, but he’ll try anything.
“I love working on commissions and the clients have been very happy with it,” he said. “It’s a discussion. You see the space and get to know the client, and before long it all comes together.”
Greshko guided for years, and the outdoors is his passion. He finds all his materials on hikes as they’re recycling themselves in a circle-of-life kind of way.
“The materials are already weathered by being outdoors,” he said.
He hikes around looking for materials from February to about May, and then starts feeling guilty and turns out some work, he said.
He asks ranchers to go through their slash piles, and that has broadened his horizons a little.
“Most people don’t think about those things,” he said. “I’ll get excited about an idea. Someone suggests something or I come up with it, and it pops.”
NOT DERIVATIVE INCREMENTALISM
A fellow artist and English major came up with the term “derivative incrementalism” to describe something Greshko’s work certainly is not.
Derivative incrementalism works like this:
You go to art shows and see something that looks like aspen trees. Then some other artist paints aspen trees in off-the-wall colors, tweaking some other artist’s work. And so it goes.
Greshko’s is not derivative or incremental.
It does, however, tend to be big and unique. That cross you see on the previous page is 7 feet tall and 58 inches wide.
“It’s a big piece that makes a big statement,” he said.
FROM MARYLAND TO PATAGONIA TO VAIL
Originally Greshko is from Annapolis, Maryland. He came to Vail after he didn’t get signed by a major league baseball team, following several tryouts. His dad had died, and he drove his mom to the Rocky Mountains to get her mind off it and he stayed. He was sleeping on his sister’s couch and spotted an ad for a fly-fishing guide. He spent years going back and forth between here and Patagonia, wherever it was summer.
In Patagonia, they have to get everything from almost nothing, so he learned to do things like fix a car with a shoestring or fix a boat with something out of someone’s shed.
“We were always running into amazing situations — the weather acting up and things breaking, but we always figured it out,” Greshko said. “It gave me confidence to try things.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.