Gallery: Summer Reading by Joshua Jarrett

Q: Hi Joshua Jarrett! Briefly tell us about yourself.

A: I'm a painter. I'm from Flowery Branch, Georgia, and I recently graduated from Columbus State University and moved to Atlanta where I draw and paint as much as I can.

Q: Who and what are some of your biggest influences?

A: Off the top of my head, Mary Cassatt, Alice Neel, Hope Gangloff, Laura Callaghan, and old Japanese woodblock prints are all huge to me.

Q: Are you still making work for your recent series, Summer Reading?

A: I am. It's the sort of thing I want to continue with until fall really hits, and I might pick it back up in the spring. The feeling of summertime is a major source of inspiration for these pictures. That's why it’s titled Summer Reading, because I want to capture that hot, lazy, long day feel. I'll keep making them until I don't feel it any more.

Q: Your work has strong narrative elements and you seem to enjoy playing with the relationship of the subject with the inside and outside world—whether looking through a window or doorway, or at a newspaper or cellphone. Can you tell us more about the themes you’re working with and hoping to convey?

A: For me, one of the best subjects for figural art is leisure. I want to give the viewer a look into these colorful homes with these characters, let them be a voyeur. I imagine each picture is the home of a different couple, as they externalize the push and pull of going or staying. Waiting for an Uber, booking a room, or just deciding if you even want to go out that night or not; the tension of laziness versus leisure is so quintessential summer to me. And in my personal life, having just graduated from college and moved home, I'm facing the choice of getting a full time job and moving out, or working part time so I can focus more on my art. There's a little bit of a personal struggle wrapped up in the bright colors and droll little scenarios.


Q: You’ve said that you view this body of work as a successor to your previous series, In Home. Thematically and subject wise, they feel very closely related, but the new work is all digital, correct? Can you tell us how your process and style has changed?

A: It's almost all digital. The lines are drawn in pen, scanned, and then the rest is colored digitally. For In Home., I was really trying to work out how a sensual but not necessarily sexualized male form can function in the kind of fine art and aesthetic context I'm interested in. To make those, I screen printed several different colors, as well as hand painted certain areas, and I did this roughly a dozen times per edition. Working this way was very expensive and time consuming. Working digitally the way I am now, and thinking of it more as illustration than fine art, allows me to work faster, produce more, and implement a lot more colors; I feel a little freer to experiment.

Q: What do you like most about working in the comic/zine format?

A: I've always loved comics. And as a teen I dabbled in drawing my own, but it wasn't until college that I discovered the zine and short form comics culture online.  I minored in creative writing in college and it seemed logical after a while to explore comics. For me, it's always exciting and strange to attach word to picture. I think, though, the thing that always brings me back to comics and zines is the opportunity to focus on a single detail or thought or period of time. I'm free not to have to pack everything into a single frame. In fact, when I work on a series, such as Summer Reading or the longer series of oil portraits I also started this summer, I am constantly thinking about what order they are “supposed” to be seen in. I guess everything I make is a little bit of a comic.


Q: Do you consider yourself a queer artist or your work as queer art? Or both? What does that mean to you?

A: This is a tough one. Yes, I am a queer artist, but I've struggled about whether I feel like my art is queer. I'm a lot gayer than my paintings. I came out when I was seventeen, but I didn't grapple with the identity or context of my work until I was older. For a while I was afraid that anything I made that was too obviously queer would be ignored; not gay enough for the gays, but too gay for straights. That's part of why In Home. was so important to me, I started to experiment with how I felt making decidedly queer imagery. Men placed in soft, pastel environments, their bodies visible, and while voyeuristic, not directly sexual, they were self-portraits as much as anything else. That art, along with Summer Reading, is definitely queer, but I do not think being queer makes all your art Queer Art. It is all in the context of having been made by a queer person. For me, the distinction is important.

Q: Having lived in the south your entire life, how do you feel that has shaped your vision? Does the south play at all into your work?

A: Well, many people who grow up queer in the South end up both very modest and very prideful at once. As far as art is concerned, I'm sure it's similar to the queer thing. Is all art made by a southern artist Southern Art? Maybe. Probably. As for playing into my work, I'd say absolutely. The themes of home and personal propriety are very Southern. Moving forward into the twenty-first century as the voice of young queer Southerners becomes further reaching and more significant, we have the opportunity to represent what the South could be, the most vibrant and relevant part of the Union.


Q: What are your goals moving forward as an artist?

A: This spring, I hope to have a solo show and I'm continuing to write and draw and print zines. Maybe a full-size book one day!

For more of Joshua's work, check out his website here and his online shop here.