IDENTITY Insight: Unfolding the Visual Narrative- Josh Dorman


IDENTITY Insight: Unfolding the Visual Narrative, curated by Eleana Del Rio

This show features the work of ten Koplin Del Rio artists and completes the series of three IDENTITY exhibitions introducing the gallery’s artists to a Seattle audience. Curator Eleana Del Rio grouped these artists together because they share a common interest in pictorial narrative. They all invite the viewer to interact with the imagery and engage with the work in a manner that allows two narratives—both the artist’s and the viewer’s—to play out over time.

Featuring David Bailin, Eric Beltz, Shay Bredimus, Wes Christensen(1949-2015), Josh Dorman, Tim Lowly, Michelle Muldrow, Len Paschoal, Fred Stonehouse, and Yuriko Yamaguchi

November 3 – December 23, 2016
Opening Reception: First Thursday, November 3, 6 – 8pm

Artist Interview #55: Josh Dorman


1. What is your ideal working environment? – space, music, lighting, etc.
As a NYC-based artist, I can’t say that I have the ideal environment, but in many ways I’m fortunate. In the city, I have a basement studio with one small window. I’m not eager to work very large these days, so the cave-like space is good for me. I use incandescent clip lights to create pools of warm light on my paintings. Because I use a lot of collage, the panels move from table to wall to floor. I sometimes work lying down on top of the panel. Last year, we bought a little home in the Catskills and I’ve set up a small studio there as well. Looking out the glass doors to see wandering geese and flowers and green is heavenly. But it can also be a distraction. It’s easy to get drawn away from the ineffable world of a painting to the tangible act of picking a flower or a cucumber. I often listen to music or podcasts while working. The more my left brain can be occupied, the less it gets in the way of the creative process. And the less it can bother me with doubts and questions.

2. Is there a specific motivator in getting you into the studio? – after morning news? coffee? after family is asleep at night?
Coffee helps. As a part-time teacher and father of twins, I take every moment I can to get to the studio. Summers are sacred time. It also helps to have a looming show as a motivator. And seeing an old friend at the Met or MOMA can inspire me. A wall of Klees or Turners can send me sprinting home to work.

3. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several? Though I’ve experimented with animation in the last several years, the mixture of paint and collage is still inexhaustible for me. I use only antique paper sources—maps, charts, textbook engravings, player piano scrolls. I usually have 5-6 panels of varying size going in the studio simultaneously.

4. In what way is your work a reflection of “tradition by way of ‘method’”?
I consider my work to be connected to the painting tradition in a deep way. I believe all great art is conceptual and spiritual. And what is termed “Conceptual Art” holds very little interest for me. I seek to create work that feels current but also outside of time and place. For inspiration, I look to ancient and Modernist sources. From Sienese paintings to Persian Miniatures to Breughel, Redon and Ryder. I try to use collage (appropriated images) in a way that honors the original creator and transforms the meaning. I hope to build worlds that invite the viewer in to figure out what is painted and what is collaged. I hope to generate images that are utterly specific and completely open-ended.

5. With the examples of your work represented in IDENTITY Insight: Unfolding the Visual Narrative, are there any anecdotal notes that may give insight into your artist vision to a new viewer?
I could discuss “Shipwreck” briefly. It began, as do most of my paintings with a small compositional sketch. I knew I wanted an enclosed body of water. I knew I wanted it to be seen from above, underneath and sideways simultaneously (like Cubism, yet visually not at all). I glued down a base layer of old player piano scroll paper. The dots and perforations generate a rhythm, create a horizontal pattern, akin to waves on a sea, and also remind one of DNA charts and other modern technologies. I then created a nest like border by laying down pine needles and grass, pouring watery inks and letting the liquid evaporate. Similarly, gears and embroidery wheels created ghosty stencils in the pink sky. Once this enclosure and pool was built, the sea creatures, bathers, and detritus of humankind began to fill the pool, while fossils and bones embedded themselves in the border earth. This is all improvisational, based on the piles of old books I surround myself with and on the forms that call to each other, jumping scale and substance. After several weeks of layering collage and paint washes, the actual ship was one of the final additions, giving a central anchor to the piece. What it all means I leave to the viewer. I have ideas and suspicions, but if I were to know the exact narrative beforehand or afterward, I would lose all interest in making art.


“Have You Seen the Red Village?”, 2012, ink, acrylic & collage on panel, 24″ x 24″


“Shipwreck”, 2014, acrylic & collage on panel, 24″ x 24″