Ruston’s Joey Slaughter didn’t plan on becoming an art professor. He grew up learning to draw and paint from his artist mother. That, plus learning to work with wood in neighborhood back yards and garages. As a boy, he was always building things, tinkering, drawing, creating.
Today, Slaughter is an assistant professor of art at Louisiana Tech University, where he teaches drawing, design, color design, mixed media, computer design and a graduate seminar.
When the young man from Ruston left Louisiana after high school, he first headed to the Memphis College of Art where he received a bachelor’s in fine arts degree. From Memphis, he was accepted into the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan — there to gain his master’s in fine arts.
Even before moving to Michigan, Slaughter had ventured far from his home roots, spending a semester in New York in a program offered by the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design.
The twenty-something Slaughter flew to New York, landed at LaGuardia Airport, and, suitcase in hand, took a cab into Manhattan to begin a crash course in the art world. He lived and worked alongside other young artists from all across America, talked shopday and night, and had his creations judged by professional critics.
After receiving his MFA from Cranbrook, Slaughter was awarded a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation — a highly respected national foundation based in New York.
Leaving Michigan, Slaughter spun off to California for a two-year stint as a hands-on, workaday artist. He and three other Cranford graduates rented a 3,600 square foot building in Los Angeles and set up a studio. Slaughter found himself working in graphic design and industrial design, in art galleries, museums and architectural firms.
It was on a trip home to Louisiana to visit his family that Slaughter met his future wife Jessica. Married in 2005, Joey and Jessica have two children — a boy, six, and a girl, three.
His first full-time academic position was at Grambling State University, where he served as assistant professor of art from 2003-2007. He came to Louisiana Tech in 2007.
Like most of his colleagues in the art department, Slaughter wears two hats: as university teacher and as professional artist. His work has been shown in galleries across the country: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia. He has been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles, including twice in New American Paintings, as well as in a catalog for the Joan Mitchell Foundation.
Closer to home, his work has been shown at the “Louisiana Biennial” in the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans; in Bossier City, Ruston and Grambling; and at Livaudais Studio, the Upstairs Gallery and the Masur Museum of Art in Monroe.
It was at the Masur in 2012 that Slaughter was a featured artist in a show named “Outside In.” Visitors who entered the Masur’s front door were greeted by Slaughter’s art work installed directly on the walls of the main lobby, then up the staircase and across the landing.
These were not framed paintings hanging from the wall. Slaughter used the very surfaces of the museum as his canvas — in some places hand-painting backgrounds, then applying vinyl and wood designs that he had created beforehand.
Slaughter speaks of his creative method on his website (www.joeyslaughter.com):
“These cut drawings are then combined with painting and other hand-made pieces, resulting in a blend of tight and loose, machine and man. They are not at odds with one another, but rather work together to make a unified whole. The combination of these traditional and non-traditional processes is important, and allows for a play between spontaneity and precision.”
Since coming back to the Monroe-Ruston area, Slaughter has found himself in great demand. He is a board member of the Twin City Art Foundation, chair of the exhibition committee of the Masur Museum of Art and a juror for the Downtown Artfest. He’s been a guest lecturer at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans and a visiting artist/lecturer at Tulane University. He recently received a career advancement grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
Slaughter’s semi-abstract creations are often intricate, swirling and difficult to understand but simultaneously ingenious, musical and challenging. Some are built in layers — of seemingly impossible figures and forms, made of vinyl, paper, paint, wood.
The artist sometimes creates on his computer; sometimes by hand. He uses high-tech tools like lasers and computer-assisted woodworking machines. And he uses traditional methods: canvas and pigment.
The Ruston boy who learned art at his mother’s feet has become a highly respected artist and professor whose presence honors the Louisiana Tech community.