Joseph Ostraff, a native of Southern California, has been a resident of Utah since 1986. After graduating from Laguna Beach High School in California, Ostraff attended Brigham Young University, receiving a bachelor's degree in painting. After his BYU experience, Ostraff married Melinda Weston and moved to Seattle, where he attended graduate school at the University of Washington, receiving a Master of Fine Arts Degree in painting.
Since then he has done everything from lumber-jacking in Idaho, sweeping floors in a department store, selling his paintings on the streets of Seattle for gas money, and building a house on the Kitsap Peninsula - to traveling the South Pacific on funds collected from art commissions, exhibiting national and internationally, and making a documentary film with his wife on the traditional art of tapa cloth making in Tonga. Ostraff has also taught in the public school system for seven years and is currently a professor of Art at Brigham Young University. Ostraff is one of the recipients of the 2010 Utah Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowships.
Ostraff is best known for his paintings of fish, birds, and other animals taken out of context from their natural environment. You find his animals swimming down a street or passing through a window or door openings. Along with the uncommon placement of nature and man-made architectural forms you may find other objects such as I-beams, pop cans, springs, and children's toys scattered around. All this is put together in his paintings in an effort to suggest alternative ways for us to look at the world.
From January of 2012 to January of 2013, Ostraff served as a mentor to Jessica Li as part of a print exchange, a corroborative printmaking project between BYU and the University of Hawaii. An exhibit of the final works was displayed at the Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus and at the Honolulu Print Makers Guild.
In 2014, Ostraff received a grant from the Laycock Center in order to fund the Western Wilds Collaboration. This was a program conducted with the Wirral Metropolitan College from Liverpool, England. The outcomes of this project were over forty artist books, prints, video installations, and experimental music, which were all exhibited in the Harris Fine Arts Center Galleries in June of 2014, and were also scheduled to appear at several art venues in England. The same year, Ostraff received another grant in order to collaborate with his students from BYU and students from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design on an exhibition on the Santa Fe campus in November of 2014.