Archive for May, 2008

ArtSlant interviews Joshua Field

Interview with Joshua Field

As part of the Spring Collection 08, ArtSlant’s curated exhibit from the ArtSlant Community Profiles, Joshua Field was chosen along with four other artists to be showcased in the ArtSlant Rackroom. Spring Collection 08 includes: Joshua Field, Kristi Kent, Josephine Haden, Jeff Mclane, and Kathy Kelley.

Joshua Field, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art (BFA-1996), lives and works in North Adams, MA. His paintings and drawings mix an abstract expressionist focus on surface with a wonderful sort of poetic storytelling. Joshua is represented by Kolok Gallery in Massachusettes, where his recent solo exhibition, WUNDERKAMMER, was on view from February 16 – March 12, 2008.

The ArtSlant Team corresponded with Joshua regarding his work, iconic imagery and current influences…

ArtSlant: What is your earliest memory of artmaking?

Joshua Field: Like most children, my scribbles were enshrined on the family refrigerator but I think that I didn’t really grow out of that phase the way most kids do. I was always engaged in looking closely at things and then taking them out of context. Even as a kid, I did plenty of collage using an old bottle of “Modge Podge” glue that my mother had laying around. I obsessively collected and assembled various bits of visual refuse. Later, I went to a high school for the arts as a visual arts major, at which point formal artmaking really started in earnest. In some ways, I’m always trying to get back to the more unencumbered way that children have of looking at images.

AS: Where do you go to see art? What have been some favorite shows recently?

JF: The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) one of the largest contemporary art museums in the U.S., is a10-minute walk from my studio here in the Berkshires and is a constant source of visual inspiration.

There are quite a few galleries in the (North Adams, MA) area, but I spend most of my gallery-hopping time in Chelsea in NYC. The recent Marcel Dzama show at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea knocked my socks off with its beautifully dramatic dioramas. Andrew Schoultz’s new work at Morgan Lehman Gallery was amazingly intricate and wonderfully obsessive. I also just had work shown at Red Dot art fair in NYC with Brenda Taylor Gallery and I really enjoyed seeing West Coast galleries that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Jack Fischer Gallery out of San Francisco had a lot of really great work at the fair.

AS: In the studio, what’s your day look like?

JF: All of my paintings originate from a sort of playful daily fieldwork I do in my sketchbook/journal, pasting in images, photographs and clippings, and then drawing connections between them or dissecting them. It is important for me to see how images change dramatically based on their context. For instance, the silhouette of a battleship changes its connotation dramatically just by tilting it 45 degrees. My studio is very much an extension of my sketchbook, packed with books ranging from first aid manuals to field guides, baggies filled with clipped images, print-outs taped to the wall. I find it to be a compelling process because, in some sense, every new thread of connection that is forged between these symbols opens up a new world. It’s somewhat like theater, creating characters and circumstances, anticipating their interactions and discovering surprising ways in which they might interact.

AS: What influences are you drawing from currently?

JF: I’ve always been interested in poetry; in the way that it references incongruous ideas and assembles them, sometimes tilted on their ear, forcing new associations. I recently acquired a set of old Golden Home and High School illustrated encyclopedias from the 60’s which are amazing. They bring together a crazy collection of illustrations that, when taken out of context, have very little direct connection to one another, and yet create fantastic visual clues. I’m currently using selections of that imagery in a ten-foot long narrative painting which unfolds over four canvases.

AS: Are your stories mythical, autobiographical? Can you give us some clues as to your imagery?

JF: I vividly remember reading Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell while I was in college at the Maryland Institute College of Art and realizing that my work was inextricably connected to the world of myth. I then began exploring the idea that images were loaded with archetypal meaning. My goal is to have my paintings work on multiple levels, going beyond autobiographical and tapping into the broader associations that people might see in the work. Some see the work as literary in that way, like Fitzgerald’s use of the green light as signifying something hoped for. Certainly, some recurring characters hold specific meaning for me, such as the stag and deer representing innocence and protection, or the battleship representing aggression. But I enjoy when people bring their own interpretation to the work instead of looking for a key by which to decipher it.

AS: What is the magic moment for you as an artist?

JF: The magic moment for me is that eureka instant when certain relationships in the painting click into place, when I discover some fundamental truth in the connections between visual elements. Often, I find myself surprised that an assumed connotation actually holds some deeper meaning, revealing some aspect of my world view that I had not yet discovered. Of course, there are bumps in the road, especially as the layering of imagery in my work has grown in complexity and there are times when I feel like asking all of the elements in a painting to just step off-stage for a while. But then, some of the most interesting and provoking moments come from the obscuring or partially obscuring an element in an editing process.

AS: Reading? Looking? Listening?

JF: Reading Jeanette Winterson’s new novel “The Stone Gods”. I fell in love with her work after reading “Art & Lies” and “Gut Symmetries” a few years ago. Looking at the 1961 Golden Book Encyclopedia of Natural Science; listening to Joanna Newsom’s album Y’s. Her lyrical imagery is absolute genius.

AS: Thanks Joshua! We look forward to seeing more of your work on ArtSlant.