Artist of the Month: AJ Uphold

Arthur J. Uphold, fondly known as AJ to his family and friends, is a long-time Sapulpa resident, having lived here for over 3 decades.

AJ’s mother discovered her son’s talent at a young age. His kindergarten teacher came to their home with a picture of a horse that he had drawn. His teacher explained to his mother that he had a talent that should be encouraged. According to Uphold, his mom took the teacher’s recommendation seriously. “When I got home from school, every day I had to sit down for an hour and draw. Everybody else was outside playing, including my three brothers. It was torture,” AJ said with a smile, “Thank God she did it. She knew what she was doing.”

Uphold served 28 years in the United States Army and retired as a Master Sergeant. He served active and reserve duty, and he was deployed in Kuwait and Baghdad, Iraq. While gainfully employed and enlisted in the service, Uphold pursued his art education. 

 AJ spent one year studying at the Rocky Mountain School of Art where he concentrated on the human form and studied under Philip J. Steele, a renowned artist and teacher who specializes in teaching human anatomy and figure drawing. Uphold received his AS degree from Tulsa Community College and obtained his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in 1995 from Oklahoma State University. 

Uphold enjoys exhilarating the viewer’s eye with color, and appreciates when people take the time to analyze his work and discover the hidden forms. His use of geometric shapes and organic elements grants him the freedom to create his own vision without restriction. He recently has delved into a new style, blending realism and abstract, thus creating a new outlet for his art. He uses traditional tools such as reflective lighting, shading, color theory, and perspective. Although you can usually distinguish a person or object in his paintings, they are transformed through shapes, shadows, and light as if they were objects in space. Uphold’s medium includes oils, acrylics, watercolor, and his sculptures include bone, acrylic, and wood.

Uphold is a Member of the Tulsa Artist Coalition and the Sapulpa Art Guild. He studies and works with the Sapulpa Artist Guild every Thursday evening at the Sapulpa Senior Center. He says he enjoys the fellowship and appreciates the talent of his fellow artists. Whenever the Guild members have an exhibition, Uphold shows his art, but “likes the atmosphere of being with them,” meaning his fellow guild members. 

Uphold has a studio on his property and paints nearly every day. He also has a vast collection of art books. Uphold is especially drawn to the works of his favorite artist. Uphold even named his little female Yorkie Picasso, in homage to the famous artist.

Uphold has exhibited in two one-man shows, the first being a one-man exhibition at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center Gallery, June 2018. The second one-man exhibition was at the TAC Gallery in the Tulsa Art district, in 2019 which was entitled “Made You Look.”

Uphold has been a finalist in 9 Online International Juried Art competitions with the last one being the “6th Annual Artist Choice Exhibition” with Fusion Art, which was released Thursday, April 8. His finalist piece was a 30” x 48” oil entitled “Brenda’s Hope.”

He has regularly exhibited at the Annual Route 66 Art Competition and was able to include a painting he did of his daughter titled “Desiree.” He has participated in multiple juried Group competitions in the Tulsa area including the TAC (Tulsa Artist Coalition) 32nd Annual Member’s Show located at the aha (formerly Art and Humanities Council of Tulsa) Gallery, Sept.2020.

Uphold took 3rd place in the 2017 Juried MOREcolor Art Exhibition in Tulsa with his oil painting titled Crucifixion. Uphold also participated in the 2018 Regional Juried MOREcolor Art Exhibition.

Uphold’s art can be viewed on Facebook at Uphold Art. His works can be purchased via Instagram at instagram.com/upholdart8. You may also contact Uphold at upholdart@gmail.com.

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Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler is a contributing writer for Sapulpa Times.