Dustin ‘UPSO’ Hostetler exhibit debuts at BozartsWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo resident Dustin Hostetler is balancing several careers — working as a commercial and creative graphic artist and co-owning a restaurant. He also publishes an art magazine called Faesthetic and runs the “Think Faest” blog.
His work has been featured in art galleries across the globe, but his first Ohio exhibit — “I Thought We’d Have More Time” — debuted Aug. 26 at Bozarts Fine Art and Music Gallery. For his first show in Ohio, Hostetler decided to include the state bird in several images.
“I love birds in general,” he said. “I love watching birds and have a bird feeder in my yard. We get a lot of cardinals. It being the state bird and this being my first Ohio show, I thought it made sense to do some pieces dedicated to cardinals. It’s the most badass-looking bird, especially when you get a bunch of them together. They have the spiked hair and are looking like they are ready to fight.”
He also paid tribute to Ohio with a series of portraits with the backgrounds made up of small logos of the state.
“I took the whole show-in-Ohio thing a little more literal than I would have for a show in New York or somewhere else,” he said. “I’m excited to be a Toledo artist and an Ohio artist and thought I would reference that as much as I could.”
His work at the show also features several consistent themes, including crystals, skulls and images containing his own body parts.
“Crystals are something that has been a repeating element in a lot of my work for several years now,” he said. “This is the first time I have played around with it being more three-dimensional. There are shadows under each of them so they pop off the walls a little.”
Skulls have been a repeating theme in his work for more than a decade.
“A friend of mine got a laser etching machine through Kickstarter.com and gave all of his supporters little bits of laser art,” he said. “I sent him a skull and he sent me back woodcuttings of skulls. He’s still learning how to use them, so the laser is a little rough on it. I kind of like that. With my work being so crispy, colorful and clean, to do some rough-cut wood ones brings some balance. I’m selling these for super cheap so if you can’t get a print, you can take a little skull home.”
Prints are available at $250 for an 18-inch-by-24-inch piece and $300 for a 24-inch-by-36-inch piece. They are all editions of one, so like a painting they are one of a kind. All of the images were printed by Toledo’s SFC Graphics.
“They do amazing art prints,” Hostetler said. “I’ve been using them for a decade. The color will last as long as a painting or anything else you buy.”
One piece of art not for sale is a rainbow Hostetler spray painted on the white wall. Bozarts allows artists to paint on the walls and repaints between shows.
“It was fun to go in here knowing I could paint on the walls if I wanted to,” Hostetler said. “You’re allowed to do whatever you want here. I only did the spray paint because I never get a chance to do that. I thought it was kind of funny to paint on the walls, and I have a lot of rainbow stuff in my work for the show anyway.”
The exhibit includes a series of four paintings of Hostetler’s face with rainbows shooting out of the eyeballs or mouth.
“I always use images of myself or reference myself in the work,” he said. “Whether it looks like me or not, it is me. It’s sort of the idea, jokingly, that I’m just sort of barfing out all this art, that it’s all I think about and all I do in my free time is barfing out art. I like to play with a little bit of humor in the art.”
Beneath one painting of his face with empty eye sockets are replicas of his eyeballs made by a friend who works in the Miller Artificial Eye Laboratory. Hostetler has also used the image of his eyes for commercial projects.
“If I get commissioned by somebody to do a commercial work and I’m able to include a body part of myself onto it, I kind of like the idea of that,” he said. “I did a Mountain Dew bottle a couple years ago for an artist series and it was covered in eyes. I love the idea that somebody living states away, who didn’t know me at all, would pull this bottle out of their fridge and have my eyeballs looking at them.”
While Hostetler likes putting himself into commercial work, he prefers to keep his art separate from his other commercial project. Last November, Hostetler and his two aunts bought the restaurant Grumpy’s from his grandparents.
“I love being involved with Grumpy’s, and I love making art, but I like having them be separate things,” he said. “Maybe someday I’d hang some of my art in the restaurant, but I’d prefer to just keep the restaurant its own special place. You have to give my grandparents credit for running it for 27 years prior to my involvement. I don’t want to slap my name over it. It’s its own beast. I’m just there helping out.”
To view Hostetler’s exhibit, contact Bozarts owner Jerry Gray at (419) 464-5785 to set up an appointment. The studio, located at 151 S. St. Clair St., brings in a new artist every two weeks. Starting Sept. 9, Hostetler’s favorite Toledo artist Yusuf Lateef starts a new exhibition.
“Most galleries do a show every month or couple of months,” Hostetler said. “Jerry is cramming more into the six months he’s doing it this year than most places would do in a year. He has a show coming up. Not only is he supporting the local arts scene, but he’s also an amazing artist himself. He’s definitely vested in local artists.”
“At BGSU I was painting these little spacemen,” he said. “They had their own little NASA organization called United Planet Space Organization, so I was writing UPSO on their spacesuits a lot. I liked it so I started putting it into all my regular art. For about 15 years I’ve been using that as a nickname for my stuff, my brand I guess. I’ll get phone calls asking for UPSO now.”
The rainbow on the wall at Bozarts isn’t Hostetler’s first experience with spray paint. The idea for using a pseudonym comes from his early days of doing graffiti.
“My inspiration for art was graffiti,” he said. “That was a big part of my life back in high school and college. In those days I was used to putting fake names on my work, because you don’t do graffiti and sign your name and phone number and address on there. I got in trouble for doing graffiti in high school and I stopped doing it, but I always liked that idea of putting fake names on my work. I love the idea of being a little bit anonymous. My face appears in my work. It’s not like it’s an anonymous thing, but I love the idea of a fake name.”