Joel Sager, a native Missourian, completed his degree in fine art at William Jewell College near Kansas City. While there, he was selected to receive the Harriman Fine Arts Scholarship and was a four year recipient of the Carpe Annum award, given to the most outstanding art major. During his senior year, the college administration purchased one of Sager's paintings to be exhibited at the Truman Foundation headquarters in Washington, D.C. After graduation, Sager was mentored by artist Mark English and received a full scholarship to the Illustration Academy at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Upon his return from studying at the Academy, Sager began working as an independent artist, gathering a body of work that has been described by critics as "moody" and "smart."
Fascinated by rural life and aspects therein, Sager presents (most often by means of landscapes, still-lifes, and portraiture) a dark perspective of such imagery, juxtaposing the seemingly mundane and lifeless with subtle allegory and vitality. Concurrent with the way some mid 20th century artists turned to basic subject matter after the war, Sager's work serves as a redemptive and simultaneously disquieting examination of the sometimes deep effectiveness and other times absurdity of life. Aesthetically, the work itself reflects the modest aspects of Sager's subject matter with its simplistic composition and almost primitive stylization of form. With the deconstructive paint process Sager employs, however, his work is metaphoric of the social and physical deterioration of the literal subject matter. This process involves an underpainting of naïve color and collage (wallpaper, construction paper, material, newspaper), a subsequent wash with roofing tar, and a scraping on and off of oil pigment with a palette knife. In essence, the artist is physically destroying his painting while metaphysically embroiled in the process of decay of the literal subject matter. The result is part realism and part primitivism: a visual struggle between idealism and pragmatism. Sager's paintings have had the honor of being shown nationally and internationally from Hollywood, California to Yokohama, Japan. Sager exhibited in the Missouri 50 for outstanding Missouri artists and was currently featured on NPR's broadcast of Michael Feldman's What Do You Know?. His paintings have been seen in print at the 2006 and 2007 True/ False Film Festival, the 2004 Columbia Festival of the Arts poster, and the seasonal 2005 Les Bourgeois Syrah label. At 27 years of age, Sager is permanently represented, showing new bodies of work seasonally at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, Missouri, U.S. Joel Sager currently resides in Columbia, Missouri, U.S. with his wife Jennifer and son Oliver.