Flagler Artists: Arbitrary Style Suits Bunnell Artist

It’s okay for an artist to paint a tree blue and the sky red.
After all, where in the art world is the rule written that trees have to be green and skies have to be blue?
At least not in the world of artists such as JJ Graham, owner of the Salvo Art Project, who paints in what is known as the “arbitrary” style. In the art world, “arbitrary” means the artist uses color to create a mood or suggest an emotion or a psychological statement that does not depict the object of the painting in its real world appearance. It‘s sometimes referred to as “expressionistic painting.”
Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period” is a classic example.
Whatever label is chosen to categorize his work, “arbitrary” also gives Graham a great deal of artistic freedom.
“I paint really large scale arbitrary colored landscapes and figurative works that have some abstract quality to them with a bit of an image in there,” Graham said. “With arbitrary color, I paint whatever I want to. If I think a blue tree looks good next to a red sky, then that is what I paint. I like that way of working.”
His painting style isn’t just about artistic freedom; it is also about having fun in the process.
“It is more fun to paint this way,” Graham told Palm Coast Magazine. “I am very serious about having fun.”
For Graham, the “fun” and creation of art isn’t just about himself.
He founded the Salvo Art Project located in Bunnell as a place where other artists have space to create and a place for artists to show their work.
The art project is part school — prior to COVID, group classes were taught; now classes are presented on an individual basis — and part studio, part gallery and a springboard for arts-related events.
Graham’s community-oriented art focus makes it easy to see why he and the late Tom Garguilo of the Garguilo Art Foundation became such close friends.
Garguilo — known as the father of the arts in Palm Coast — died earlier this year leaving the foundation he and Arlene Volpe created without its main leadership.
Graham, along with assistance from Melissa Reynolds and Skip Westphal, took on the time-consuming task of photographing thousands of paintings and other artwork pieces created by Garguilo throughout his decades-long career.
“I am finally getting to see some of his work from the early part of his career,” Graham said. “It is amazing.”
Graham helped Garguilo’s family clear the art from he and Arlene’s home in preparation for sale. Now, the art, which ranges from paintings on canvas, drawing on paper and some sculpture, is jam-packed and overflowing from a large room in his residence upstairs from the Salvo Art Project.
It isn’t just Garguilo’s work. The collection is a veritable representation of art in Palm Coast and Flagler County for the past several decades as Garguilo collected work from a myriad of local artists — Graham included.
“We moved the collection to a safe, secure location,” Graham said. “This project will take a long time to photograph all of it, but this is something I want to do to honor a man who was a dear, close friend and who made an enormous difference for artists here.”
You can learn more about the Salvo Art Project online at: www.facebook.com/salvoartproject
— Amy Armstrong