J. Chester Armstrong

Sculpture Figurative Landscape


World renowned wood sculptor J. Chester Armstrong’s roots run deep in Central Oregon, his chosen home. He was born and raised in Berkeley, California, and in the 1960’s graduated from the U.C. Berkeley with a degree in poetic theory and philology. In the early 1970’s, after traveling through Central America and a brief stay in Vermont, he came to Oregon looking for “untracked spaces” where the stars are not drowned out by the city lights.


For the past thirty years, he has lived outside the little town of Sisters, Oregon. He lives with his wife, singer and song writer Anastacia, in the shadow of the Three Sisters Mountains, at the edge of the wilderness that is his inspiration. Recalling Chief Seattle’s comment that, “The further we get from the forest floor, the less human we become.” Armstrong says, “I would rather live in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.”


Armstrong is a self-taught artist. He helped run a YMCA camp at Spirit Lake, Washington in the 1970’s and wanted to introduce the campers to Native American Northwest totem poles and mask. When he couldn’t find anyone to teach the class, Armstrong took on the role himself, and found he had a natural gift for shape and proportion.  “I can “see” the forms in the raw logs. It’s like Michelangelo said- just take away everything that doesn’t look like “nine horses running” and there it is.” And for the last forty years, using chainsaws, grinders and hand chisels, Armstrong has done just that.


Out of the local Oregon woods, including juniper, maple, pine and walnut, Armstrong carves the world he sees around him- eagles, ospreys, wolves, cougars, coyotes howling at the moon, herons perched majestically at the river’s edge…”The magic of life. This is what moves me. This, and the wild herds of mustangs that inhabit the West of my imagination.”


Armstrong is known for his horses- thundering herds all moving rhythmically as one. His artist style can be described as “slightly stylized realism” where the grace and rhythm of the sculpture’s outline or silhouette takes precedence over the anatomical accuracy. Armstrong stated, “Although my horses look like horses, the art of sculpture is not to recreate the world verbatim, but to interpret it.”


His sculptures are charged with movement and emotion. “I carve to reawaken the soul of the viewer to the primal energy and life force of the earth-based imagery,’’ Armstrong says. “My sculptures move in the rhythm of circles, spirals and flowing lines, dictated as much by the grain lines of the wood itself as by my own sense of the harmony of the natural world. Wood sculpture, like stone sculpture, is a subtractive process. You “take away” to reveal the form within, it is arduous and demanding, and combines both artist inspiration and physical perspiration. Wood is yielding, but not forgiving. It does not allow for mistakes. But it is organic, warm and “alive”, and creates a unique piece of art that traces its beginnings back to the living tree, blown by the wind and fed by the sun and waters of the earth. Today, more than ever, we need to “reverence” the natural world,” Armstrong says. “My sculpture is the water the quenches that thirst. It is the touch and being touched by the spirt of the Earth.”


Some of Armstrong’s most notable collectors include Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Olivia Newton John, Nick Nolte, President Bush, Michael Jackson, T. Boone Pickens and Harold Courson- all personal friends.


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