Thanks so much, Joey, for taking the time to speak with us about your artistic inspiration and practice!
I’m so glad to chat, I’m a big fan of Natural Earth Paint!
Could you please tell us a little bit about your personal history that led you on this artistic journey? How were you first introduced to the arts?
I’ve always been a creative and I’m so grateful to my parents for always encouraging me— and without any pressure either, just genuine support for what I wanted to do. For a long time I didn’t actually think I would pursue professional art but it was such a gift to never think it wasn’t a possibility, so when it did show up on my horizon it looked way brighter. I’m an activist and I’ve definitely struggled with the validity of that career choice, and many times feared that it’s not enough for the world, but ultimately I have to remember that art is so important and a very real part of social justice.
How has your Quaker upbringing impacted your art and artistic themes?
It’s funny, historically Quakers were not into art. Way back then it was seen as extravagant and distracting from God. But these days there are as many ways to be Quaker as there are colors to paint, so I’m glad that the core concepts of peace, integrity, and equality are what sifted through, and those really ground me as a human and an artist.
What kind of arts education did you receive, if any?
As a kid I went to a small private school where I’m sure the small class sizes and specialized resources influenced my art journey even if I didn’t realize it. I never wanted to go to “Art School” which seemed very intimidating to me, and at 18 I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I went to the Liberal Arts college that offered me the most financial aid at the time, which was the University of Rochester, in Western NY. I lucked out though, because the art program there ended up being perfect for me, kind of a hidden gem.
We’re especially enamored with your choice of materials; maps are an awesome canvas choice! How did you first come to using maps in your work?
Oh my gosh I wish I remembered a specific epiphany but it really just comes down to my love of maps. My dad taught geography and social studies so the imagery was always around and I just love how much depth they give to a piece. It’s very easy to draw a parallel between the movement of a river and the veins of a body.
Tell us a little bit more about the themes in your work—connection, vulnerability, gender, and relationship with the earth—and how they came to be a part of your artistic practice.
Another cool thing about maps, as opposed to photos of land or water, is their very human representation that we see in the text, roads, and borders. Humans are enamored with a sense of place, and when I turn a map sideways or upside-down, the viewer’s first question is often “Where is this?”. That’s a trick I like to play— to force people to see a place and know that it has been labeled and chopped up into politics, and instead see it for its earth-ness, its rivers, mountains, and coasts, and hopefully feel connected to it without having to recognize where it is in relation to us. I want that concept to play across human “categories” as well— to see a human and know their human-ness, regardless of their gender, race, age, or any other way we learned how to divide each other.
When did you first try out our natural pigments?
I had been trying to move my practice more in line with my message by incorporating resources that reflected sustainability, and I realized I had to stop using acrylic paints because it’s essentially plastic. I was about to do a residency in Rochester, NY in 2018 and thought that was a great opportunity to experiment with new materials.
Do you have any tips for artists who want to branch out and work in a variety of mediums like you do? What were the challenges you faced when you started, and what made the learning process easier for you?
When I first started playing with pigments I made watercolors but I found them very challenging, especially on maps, so I had to experiment a lot. I also tried making oils which I had never used before, but I landed on making gouache which is closer to the feel of acrylic that I wanted. My biggest tip is to keep making stuff! I never would have figured it out if I didn’t make a bunch of things I didn’t like. Sometimes it helps to dedicate a series or project to experimenting, and I think a lot of people enjoy seeing that process as well.
Where can our audience see or purchase your work?
www.usandweart.com and @usandweart on Instagram