If you’ve been paying attention to the artists we’ve showcased in recent years, you will have heard of Joshua Alexander, and seen his collection of hand painted celebrity portraits at Motion Gallery. Having exhibited his hand paintings across Alberta, this month he joins us with a very different style of art as he debuts works that include his maker craft.
In this month’s show, we see a collection themed around Halloween. Joshua brings us sculptural pieces, mostly skulls executed in different ways. They include a human skull free hand sculpted out of tie wire, a stack of osb plywood carved into a crude human skull shapes, and one carved from a stump with a circ saw. There’s also a clay sculpted brain, metal sculptures, and wood sculptures of skeleton hands. He is also displaying two new paintings, one of an anatomical human heart, and another a skull. He tells us, “I even did some pyrography. I like using reclaimed materials, so I took some pallet wood and burned a skull into it with a red hot spoon. A hack of an old sewing machine, and assorted bits and pieces makes up what I call an ‘otolaryngology academic studio”.
A lot of Joshua’s inspiration comes from things he finds. He explains, “I found a piece of driftwood that looked quite pretty, and it needed a reason to be displayed. Bam! I’ll make a wire sculpture whale to put on it. One time I came across a piece of turned wood that had a bit of burl exposed in the burn pile of my neighbours wood shop. Looked super cool. Perfectly round but basically unusable other than for firewood. I kept it for 2 years before I finally used it for this show actually, and mounted a nature sculpture on it. I stained it ebony to contrast a piece of red rose bush root that happens to be shaped like an anatomical heart.”
Joshua runs with his imagination on most of his projects. Each piece created is uniquely individual, and he will rarely make the same thing twice unless he is commissioned to do so. “I like to do what looks cool. I like imperfections.” He adds, “Rustic is pretty popular these days which is fine, but I find a lot of builds lack real character.”
He goes on to explain, “I once made a rustic kitchen table. It’s the centrepiece of the kitchen which smashes you in the eye balls with it’s story. I carved starfish into the bottom of the table top, but the wood began to crack due to my inexperience in woodworking, and required splines to stop the cracking. I decided to make metal starfish shaped splines. The cross grain end on one side is a piece that’s riddled with holes. Notches formed by barnacles and many years in the ocean, which inspired the whole build. This table has a whole story to it. It’s not just a rustic table”.
Describing his work shop as his imagination headquarters, where he completes most of his art, he says he’s made it a space that embodies his personality. “I’ve outfitted it functionally and creatively. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never visited the space. I find that when someone comes by to view a piece, they end up staying a while to look around.” There is a lot to look at in his studio, from a dinosaur on the wall, the creation of Adam painted on the ceiling, a rock climbing wall, dartboard, Charlie Brown bobble-head, a minion besides an anatomical heart model, just to name a few. “Why is there an arm poking out of the crack in the ceiling?”, he questions as he laughs out loud.
As a constructive kid making props for role playing, building fort slots, he even built a full log cabin complete with a roof with his brother when we were around 10. Joshua also made retractable wolverine claws out of coat hangers as well as glasses when he was about 5 years old. Making things came long before he even start
ed painting. At the age of 10 he sold his first artwork for $2. “I worked really hard and long on a knife I carved out of a root and sold it to the neighbour”.
He admits most of his artistic development has occurred by trial and error. Receiving a fair amount of professional training in construction trades taught him how to use execute different techniques with certain materials.
Making sculptural and crafted arts rather than painting allows him to explore further creative itches. He counts close to 300 sculptures built to date, and his favourite for this month’s show is the raven skeleton made of old rusty nails, bolts and screws.
With a long ‘to do list’ for making art, he has had to start writing down his ideas. His next exciting big build is a huge map for a potential client, and he tells us he’s thought up a cool execution for this project.
You can find more of Joshua’s work on Instagram www.instagram.com/usihtat/, on his Facebook page, at Curiosity Inc. in Edmonton, as well as in several galleries around Alberta.
Written by Sandra Montgomery
Edited by Renee Laferriere