Interview with Joe Sorren - “The Great Cantaloupe Day”
At AFA NYC Gallery
Joe Sorren was born in 1970 in Chicago, IL. He was raised in Arizona and spent his childhood drawing on anything and everything that didn’t move. After he earned a BFA from Northern Arizona University in 1993, he worked as the creative director for Transworld Snowboarding Magazine while raising his two children Martha Elaine and Henry Vincent.
His first solo exhibition took place shortly afterwards in 1995 in Los Angeles. For the past 15 years since, he has shown his artwork in solo exhibitions in galleries and museums in the United States and abroad. His artwork has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, TIME and Rolling Stone, in addition to numerous cover stories in art publications, such as Juxtapoz.
Sorren has been awarded several coveted accolades, including a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators in New York, and a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles. His first museum retrospective was held in Santa Ana in 2010, and his most recent book, Joe Sorren: Painting + Sculpture (2004-2010), was released in conjunction with that same exhibition.
Current developments in Sorren’s painting style evince a new manner of gravitas not seen in his earlier compositions. Recent works explore new ground as the artist plays with new forms and palette, highlighting the tender faces and gestures of his signature figures.
Sorren is currently working from his studio in New York City. His recent exhibition was - “The Great Cantaloupe Day”
At AFA NYC Gallery
What we love about the artwork of Sorren is that he fluid and expressive brush strokes convey deep care. His compositions are soft and soothing, and invite the viewer to explore deeply emotional subjects within hazy and dreamlike landscapes.
Who are your characters and what story or message they have?
I feel I am closer to learning the answer to that everyday. Sometimes they are brave little fuckers. Other times, broken little fuckers.
Do you leave your art to the viewer's interpretation or is it important to you that they will understand the story you wanted to tell?
Sometimes it is years before I learn, or at least get a glimpse of what
painting wants to say. My ‘goal’ in painting is to create a space where the viewers thoughts can live and change with the painting as they change, instead of telling or directing the viewers experience. When I work, I am always searching for the surprise. the AHH! moment.
What is the process of your work ?
I rarely start a piece with a concept. I feel more like an archivist or
archeologist when I work. I work very hard to keep the possibilities open, holding on lightly; I would say I am more interested in learning from the canvas, rather than telling the canvas what it should be.
Your work had change through the years, part of the change was when you worked with acrylic paints, you said you liked the simplicity of it, now you are using oils. Why did you made the change ?
I was tired of making the acrylics look immediate. For me, to nourish
the canvas and have it feel like a simple brush stroke, is very time
consuming in acrylic. Once a painter learns the simple, basic process of how to paint in oil; in a way that is technically sound, it is then pure joy of supple color and response.
The shift was dramatic for me in the beginning, but now feels like second nature. Also, I am very drawn the the emotional capacity of color to illicit certain feelings, certain dreams. And in acrylic, as they dry about 15 percent darker than intended, I spent way too much time those first ten years guessing the final result, whereas in oil, what you see is what it is.
Another change in your work was bringing the character into three dimensions. Does it feel different?
It feels like a natural progression. Because I feel that what I capture is
already existing before I make it, surely they should live in 3 dimensions as well. I look forward to exploring new ways and mediums to reveal them more in three-d in the coming months...
Music is a big part of your life, tell us about projects you were part off, bands and the collaborations.
Because sound is interesting; the different timbres and tones different
instruments can create, I have always been fascinated in the modeling of sound. I am lucky in that I never have felt fearful of not knowing how to play an instrument, rather they are tools to use for the shaping of sounds. and their interrelationships; the sounds capes made, become like audible paintings to me. I have been lucky to work on many projects with some very gifted, patient people. My only rule is: anything goes if it works.
How did it influence your paintings ?
in the same way smells and trips and children do, they surprise me.
Where do you play today and where can we hear the music ?
Itunes.com ‘the lyle and sparkleface band
Are there any other aspects of your life, things that you love that find their way to your paintings?
Yes, my children are with me with every brushstroke. I paint and consider conversations, I paint and replay dialogs, I remember the dead, I honor broken relationships. I am fortunate in that I understand that through painting, as a primal communication, all aspects of life and thought reveal themselves.
Who are the artists that inspire you ?
Twombley’s courage, Degas’ neverrending careless accuracy,
michalangelos’ mind, chopin’s wisdom and storytelling through melody, Jim Henson’s heart. The list is endless. If we are open to true voices, they will find us.
Do you listen to music while you paint? What did you listen to when you created “The Great Cantaloupe Day” ?
I was listening to Thomas Wolfe’s “look homeward angel’ on audio book. I some days listen to the birds speaking with the car horns, other days it’s March 1, 1969 Dark Star by the grateful Dead. It depends on the mood I suppose.
In your blog you share with your readers drawing and your work. Does it give you motivation and inspiration or is it a business move?
I feel like I want to be the artist I wish I could have studied when I was young. No secrets, just sharing, because in the end, we are all we have.
Other art that you are passionate about movies, books, theater ?
yes yes and yes! and history. Getting to the bottom of what actually
happened in other times, reading through the lines and cracking the
mysteries. I find the more I try an answer questions of our past, our earth, our sciences, the more questions arrive. I just hope to be alive long enough to fill my bowl of love and knowledge.
One Wish for humans?
To make empathy a priority. To understand it is better to be kind than right.