★ MEET N‘ GREET ★
1. Hi Josh, what’s happened since you woke up this morning?
I almost sat on a cat who had surreptitiously crept onto the chair at my desk. Neither of us were quite awake but at least one of us had cat-like reflexes.
2. Will you sum up your age/location/artistic background for us?
I’m 39 years old, I currently live in Los Angeles and I started painting in earnest at 17. I wasn’t one of those kids who drew a lot (or well) and for whom everyone is always predicting a future in art. However, looking back, the Spiderman-inspired webs that I covered my room in (using my mother’s yarn) were quite possibly an early attempt at ’installation art’.
2. Tell me about New York City- the place and people according to you- as if I’d never heard of it.
Smells like garbage in the summer. Noisy. Overcrowded. People avoid eye-contact with strangers at all costs. The pizza is overrated but the bagels are the world’s best (if you know where to get them). Almost impossible to find good Mexican food. I lived there for ten years so there must have been something that kept me there, though.. and I actually miss that summertime garbage smell in some strange way. Also, no shortage of attractive people. John Waters claims this is why rents are so expensive - it’s the ’cute tax’.
3. Materially, acrylic and unprimed canvas are your mainstays. What are their merits for your process? Have you always worked this way?
I originally started using acrylic on the unprimed canvas because I wanted to begin the paintings by staining. Oil on unprimed canvas isn’t archival. I suppose I also like the ’raw’ canvas because it Ive always liked calling attention to my materials. Before switching back to the traditional stretched canvas three years ago, I hadn’t worked with it since undergrad. I painted on wood, old awnings, fabric, clear sheets of plastic, tar roofing paper, you name it...
4. Can you describe the strange sense of mass media-promised ’freedom’ that you aim to portray? What is it about the 70s? And currently... is modern Western civilization becoming stranger or blander every day, and what’s responsible? How distanced do you yourself feel from what’s truly happening out there?
Well, firstly the 70s are the decade that I grew up in and was first exposed to music, TV, films, magazines... so media images from that time have a special resonance for me. The most exciting and ’forbidden’ imagery that I could find was always of the ’counterculture’... rock and roll, communes, cults, so these are the things that I have started going back to, to feel some of that original mystery and fascination. Hoping that if I can feel that for my source material, it will come through in the paintings, even amplified through the increase and scale and distortion that happens during my process.
I suppose that I would say that modern civilization is getting simultaneously blander and stranger, in that more of our lives are spent with our reality being mediated by devices.. computers, mobile phones, watching television (and playing video games on TV). We get our information but also our entertainment here now, and even a lot of people have a good part of their ’social’ interaction online. So, there is something strange and alienating about most of us being almost surgically attatched to these devices and its also bland because all of these things are removing us from the real world around us and inside of us. Indeed, my work is about experiencing the world through mass media, in a sense.
5. What’s your primary motivation to make work? Also who are your top few most inspirational people, living or dead?
I’m not sure what the primary motivation is, to be honest. It’s simply an urge that I obey, in fact, base my life around. It’s all a bit of a mystery. The two painters who inspire me the most are Matisse and Rothko. Other favorites would be Seurat and Vuillard. The writer Raymond Carver is very important to me as is the intensity and total commitment of Jim Morrison. Last but certainly not least, my mother was the one who gave me an appreciation of art and if it wasn’t for the hulking ’Big Book of French Impressionism’ in our living room, I might never have fallen in love with painting.
6. What’s your choicest show experience to this date, or best trip you’ve ever taken (whichever one is better?) And lastly, what’s coming up in your world, either soon or at some point?
I was fortunate to do some teaching in Oslo in the fall of 2007 and enjoyed it immensely, but the most life-changing trip had to be the month I spent doing a residency at the Vermont Studio Center in the fall of 2005. That’s where I rediscovered myself as an artist and made the transition from frustrated part-time painter to frustrated (albeit a better kind of frustration) full-time painter!
Thanks very much Josh for your thoughts, and for being a part of Little Paper Press.