In the lead up to the 2017 Walthall Fellows’ exhibit at MOCA-GA this summer, we will be featuring an interview with each of the Fellows from this year’s cohort. This round, our intern Grace Gardner interviews Joe Camoosa.
Joe Camoosa lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia and makes concise, bold, graphic works on paper, Mylar or canvas that combine drawing, painting and collage. This work relies on restraint; compositions are edited, rigorously arranged and rearranged to forge a singular image that reads as a symbol or icon. His explorations focus on the relationships between shape, scale, pattern and repetition, while limiting color choices. His work is informed by cartography, music, aerial landscapes and architectural fragments. He received an MFA in painting and drawing from the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia and graduated from Florida State University where he studied Mass Communication and Anthropology.
Grace Gardner: What would you say has been the most valuable experience you have taken away from WonderRoot’s Walthall Artist Fellowship?
Joe Camoosa: Getting to know and work along side a fantastic, diverse group of curious, driven professional artists.
GG: Can you describe your process as an artist?
JC: My life revolves around the studio and making work. I get up, exercise and head to the studio each day. I change into my work clothes, make an espresso, sit down at my drawing table and take stock of the work in varying states of completion on the walls and tables. I open my sketchbook and begin to write or draw. I spend time each day reading, writing and drawing both to fill up the tank, and to empty my mind of “worldly” distractions in order to settle into the rhythms of the studio. I listen to music continually and the occasional podcast depending on the task at hand.
Much of my work is built up over time only to be edited down, painted over, scraped or sanded away in search of a structure. I bridge the line between control and chaos, in order to bring forth an image I haven’t seen before.
GG: What do you do when you find yourself at an “artist block”? Do you have any methods of pushing past that feeling?
JC: I think about this a lot – it’s one of the occupational hazards of a daily studio practice. I’ve found the only way out of the artistic desert is working my way out. That sounds easier than it is – but an “artist block” or whatever you want to call it signals work is becoming too precious and it’s time to take the pressure off by experimenting with new materials and processes. A seemingly simple thing like changing materials can generate a spark to push me out of my comfort zone.
Secondly, I’m constantly working and I work on multiple pieces at once so I don’t experience that “now what?” feeling when I finish a piece or a project.
When all else fails I make an espresso and grab a sketchbook.
GG: What advice do you have for individuals who are interested in becoming professional artists?
JC: My advice for anyone pursuing a life in the arts: Build community – you need the support of others. It’s hard solitary work for which you’ll need endurance, patience, the ability to be alone and to generate your own inspiration. You have to be able to give yourself approval, and most importantly, be able to ask for help.
GG: In what ways, if any at all, is positive social change integrated into your work?
JC: I think making work and sending it out into the world is in and of itself a positive, political undertaking regardless of the content.
GG: What do you plan to do upon completing the Walthall Artist Fellowship?
JC: Focus on completing new work for an upcoming exhibition at Kai Lin Gallery in September.
Wrap Around, Ink, Silkscreen Ink, and Cut Paper on Arches, 11 1/4″ x 6″, 2017
Building a Ship from the Shipwreck,…..a matter of finding our way, or rather, a willingness to be lost opens at MOCA-GA on July 13, 2017. The 2017 Walthall Artist Fellowship was generously and lovingly facilitated by Sarah Higgins, curator of the Zuckerman Museum at Kennesaw State University. Tickets can be purchased here.