Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Treats: Joe Valentine


Introducing the gutsy and charismatic artist and musician, Joe Valentine. Born and bred Jersey, Joe now resides in Seattle with his beautiful daughter, Tula, and partner, Marybeth. What has always struck me about Joe is that he is very confident in his work. He never lets on to any sort of struggle with fear or artistic doubt. When I asked Joe what the truth is, he admitted that a lot of it is "smoke in mirrors" but to be completely honest, with the materials he uses, "I can't fuck up. It's in the gel. I have to be confident in where it's going." Joe works with heavy gels and resins, paint pens, and markers and he likes to use fragile, reflective surfaces which draws him to use glass and mirror. As he spoke about in his interview with Twilight Artists Collective in September, Joe works with "repurposed glass, mirror, and canvas to indicate the importance of reusing." Joe's choice in materials embodies some of his convictions about art. "Reusing materials keeps art accessible through its price," Joe said. "Most of my recycled material I get for free on Craigslist. Why would I then charge $500 for a piece? For my time? That is a fucking gift that I get to do. If I'm going to charge $200 for a privilege that I get, I think that's way out of balance." Spoken like a true man of conviction.

And like most men of conviction, Joe was very honest the more we talked about what it takes to be, not just an artist, but a confident artist. "There is a bit of arrogance. But sometimes there's a perceived confidence that you require for yourself," which it seemed to me was perhaps more important than acquiring an art degree. Joe sees his rejection from art school many moons ago as a blessing in disguise. He instead studied cultural anthropology, philosophy, and design.  "Meditating on stuff like art history is dead. It's the relics...of course, you can learn stuff from the masters, but be in the present about your art. We all have our reference points. There are artists who I'd love to emulate, but it's not about history or the static environment of art. It's about making it with sincerity." Joe argued that studying bracket dates was not the real conversation of art. "Talk about the now, your feeling in your gut." It's statements like this that make Joe such an inspiring and exciting artist. His deep belief and desire to explore human connectivity goes from the repetitive line applications on his glass to the core of his bones. He leads his life and creates his art from his heart which comes across in his work.

Having known Joe on the periphery of my life the last few years, I have had the fortune of seeing his work grow over the last four years. But, probably even before then, since I had the great pleasure of moving into a bedroom that had his artwork on the wall and living in a home where Joe once lived and painted. There were a couple of Joe's earlier paintings that hung on the wall of this home in New Jersey, and seeing how much his earlier works have changed to what he is creating most recently has been nothing short of inspiring and moving.

schrier_archways.jpgAnyone who doesn't know Joe can see the life transformations he has been through in his art work or as he puts it, "Those are my words. That's my story. The image is the meaning. [Studying] anthropology gave me language." Whether it is his more street-aesthetic pieces like his rich and colorful Kiwicon Series or his Anti-Re-Undefined works or his beautiful high contrast Line Works where he perhaps manifests a sort of meditation through the repetitive application of lines or the black and whites in his more thought-provoking Vektor Series  or the huge collaborative arts and live art pieces or mural pieces he does, all of Joe's paintings have energy and heart. They are the kind of pieces that make you stop and feel it.

I asked Joe about the Vektor Series which had a show  in West Philadelphia in 2009. The Vektor Series had started in Ithaca when Joe was visiting a friend and contemplating the idea of meta narratives. "What I am saying in my art work and what people are saying in my art," he added. He was drawn to the idea of cells  and orbs. A vector is an algorithm, an equation. It's an element of vector space, kind of like how we think of pixels. Joe elaborated with how he was interested in creating a dialogue about "how the very small looks like the very big and how the very big can emulate the very small." We are a map of cells but zoom out some more and we are a cell in the universe, just like how we wish on a single star in a sky made up of billions. Joe is a deep thinker and someone who can ponder about life cell by cell and universe by universe.


"Of course, I can't talk about any of this without mentioning illness," Joe said. One of Joe's first creations came out in a painting that looked something like a bull with a tumor in its belly. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with Stage 3 lymphatic cancer. In going back to the topic of fear, Joe feels grateful for having the experience of cancer. He said, "Illness made it a fact. Your locked into this eternal agreement with your creative self." I surmised that all the bullshit falls away and perhaps the confidence and courage he has in approaching his work was propelled by his illness. He agreed saying that when the doctor told him he was okay (which Joe explained with cancer often means okay for now) Joe felt like he'd lost his best friend. There is a  fearlessness, or as Joe calls it, "a gift," that comes with that experience, one that he never undervalued or took for granted.

whats_left.jpgWe talked about how art can be a dialogue between the subconscious and the conscious. Joe agreed whole-heartedly and argued "How could anyone not believe that?" I asked if there were other paintings that haunted him or perhaps spoke to him like the bull? He told me of two paintings, one of a tidal wave that he painted while spending time with a friend just recently back from Thailand. He made the wave his logo and three days later the 2004 Tsunami devastated Indonesia and surrounding countries. Last year, when also in a moment of transition, he painted some tee-pees with what looked like yellow and black churning clouds, kind of spirits moving west on the canvas. Soon after, his cousin offered him to come out west. She had an art studio in need of an artist. If anything, painting teaches Joe to listen.

v3.jpgJoe did move out west, after surviving cancer, several moves, and other transitions. There he met his lovely lady and to their surprise, not long after came their little girl, Tula, perhaps one of the most light-spirited and joyful babies I have ever met. On becoming a father, Joe said,"It's so hard, but what a great gift to teach you about yourself. She's molding me into a completely different person." If you look at Joe's more recent works, (which I am in love with) (and which have also been showcased in Irwin's Neighborhood Bakery & Cafe in Seattle) there is a move away from the high contrast street-aesthetic and more into a sort of positive life-aesthetic. Where once he focused on decay (as quoted in the The TwAC interview), his newer works evoke a more spiritual, earthy element, like his Flame, Feather, Fin and Frond Series. I found the same sort of elements in the more muted tones he uses in his Diffusive works. It doesn't take an art historian to see that there is a different spirit in these newer paintings. I asked Joe if that was possibly inspired by becoming a father? He thought on it and admitted he suddenly had felt drawn to fire once his daughter was born. "I painted fire after Tula's birth- flames. But that's how I was thinking of her, like this bright star. I was given this flame through this creative self."

Did I mention that Mr. Valentine is also quiet an amazing musician? I know, swoon. But, hands off ladies (and some gentlemen) this one's taken. I've linked and included some of Joe's songs in this piece as well as his video on how he actually paints, because it is all a part of his process, his creative creed, the idea of transparency, honesty, and just going for it, creating from the gut!

Recently inspired by Joseph Campbell and Robert Frost, Joe has been on a journey of saying "yes" to life and you can see it in his art. There is a transformation happening with the addition of this new beating heart in his life. (Two, I should say) "It's about walking with your heart out," Joe said. "I am proud of what I do. I love the potential value art can hold. And I don't always think it's vein."

Perhaps what I loved about talking with Joe, is whenever I asked if something was "intended," he would throw that idea away, which further confirmed for me that he truly is an artist that just comes at his work from the gut. I can think of no better way to live as an artist and as a connective human being in this world.

Many thanks to Joe who took time out of his day to answer my questions while entertaining a cooing baby.

Robert Frost
Check out Joe's Website, where you can also purchases some of his pieces, at http://www.joevalentinearts.com/. Follow him on twitter @zephsauvage or shoot him an email at info@joevalentinearts.com. You can also check out some prints at Society 6. Then you can have your mind blown everyday!


Bill said...

this is my cousin joe and he fuckin rocks

Lindsey said...

Thanks for commenting, Bill. Joe absolutely fuckin rocks.