I saw Joss Parker’s art about a year ago in a small gallery in Columbus, Ohio. It popped off of the brick wall like a flashing vacancy sign on an empty highway. I’ve seen pop art before. I was a kid in the 80’s. The whole world was a comic book. But there is something more to Parker’s art. It isn’t just images. It’s the reflection in a window. You see what’s inside and outside. It’s television on canvas.
Ara: When did you do your first painting and what did you paint?
Joss: It was 1999. I did a California oil landscape. That’s my background—more traditional impressionist style paintings.
Ara: Films, music, art that have influenced your work?
Joss: Some of the cartoons that you’ve seen on MADtv and Saturday Night Live. Anything that Robert Smigel has done. TV Funhouse has been a huge influence. Not so much the images, but the concepts and ideas. The sarcastic take on pop art. Even though they don’t show up in my art, I watch a lot of spaghetti westerns. Goodfellas, Casino. I’m also a big Stanley Kubrick fan.
Joss: Well, right now I’m listening to a lot of later jazz. Louis Prima. Bands like Sparta. Also, early hip hop—De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest. Opera. I’m kind of all over the map with music.
Ara: I’m going to ask the obvious pop art question here. What about Warhol. Did he influence your work?
Joss: Not in terms of his art, I mean I love some of his art, but mostly his business strategies. Really just his outside the box thinking. Some of things he was doing, even though they were copies. I like to think of myself as a colorist. I don’t like muted colors. I like my stuff to pop off of the wall.
Define pop art?
Pop art is a reflection of the times. Artists are recording machines. I’m a product of the 80’s so a lot of my stuff has that feel. But you still had a lot of 60’s and70’s stuff that carried over into the 80’s like Hannah Barbara. So you see that in there too.
Ara: To me there are different kinds of art. There is responsive art. Art that responds to society. And there is art that creates inner conflict. What does your art do?
Joss: I think it does both. There are some pieces that are just aesthetics. Then there are pieces that make you ask questions. Like the “Homage to Matisse”. You recognize it as the Matisse and then you see the tv and that’s when the inner dialogue starts for the viewer. Why is the tv there? What does it all mean?
Ara: What is the meaning behind that painting?
Joss: We are children of the television now. Especially the 80’s crowd. We didn’t grow up with our parents so to speak. We kind of grew up with tv. Children dancing around a television.
Ara: What’s your favorite piece?
Joss: I’ve done some Al-Qaeda camo pieces that were taken from an Israeli stock photo. I did different camo backgrounds with different colors. Those were probably my favorite because it’s not what people expect from me. You see them and immediately you know that there’s conflict but they’re also very bubble gummy, very poppy. Yet there’s this masked person with an assault rifle. So, it’s pretty heavy.
Ara: What’s your favorite piece of art by another artist?
Joss: I would have to say “Almond Tree in Blossom” by Pierre Bonnard. It was actually the painting that got me started
Ara: Where was your first solo exhibition?
Joss: At Gallery 831 on Front Street/ Columbus, Ohio
Ara: When did you sell your first piece?
Joss: It was in 2002. I sold it at an opening. I had a gallery representative then and she actually curated for another person. It was a pretty sweet sale.
Ara: When did you first notice your artistic ability?
Joss: I was always kind of artistic. In art class kids were drawing stuffed animals and I was drawing cityscapes. I also grew up doing landscape blueprints for my father’s concrete company, so there’s a design element that I picked up along the way.
Ara: What are you passionate about?
Joss: Well I’m very passionate when it comes to my art, the accessibility of my art. That means not just getting it out there but making it accessible to the masses. You don’t want to scare people off with outrageous prices. If I don’t sell for 1200.00, I’m ok with that. I just want to get it to the people that want it most. I deal a lot with children and they buy some of my work and that’s awesome. Hopefully someday they grow up to appreciate art and maybe curate or collect.
Ara: What was the single most defining moment in your life?
Joss: I would say my first knee injury. I was 9. I was wrapped up in athletics and I loved it and that’s what I was going to do with my life. But then I had knee surgery. So for the next ten years or so I had a bum knee. I think that’s when I really started getting into art.
Ara: What’s your advice to young artists?
Joss: Just keep doing it. Make as much as you can. Like Warhol said…”While people are deciding if it’s good or not make more.” Get it out there and be fair with your prices. I mean we aren’t all going to make it like Picasso or Pollock. If you like holding onto stuff in your attic for twenty years, I guess you could sell for $5000.00 but I like to work, I like my stuff to move.
Ara: Do you sell more work in the Midwest or in New York?
Joss: Well, it’s a different price set. I can raise my prices in New York and it still moves. I really can’t keep my stuff on the wall. It flies. I think last summer I sold 30-40 pieces a month.
Ara: If you couldn’t be an artist what would you be?
Joss: Well, I would like to say an astronaut but when I saw the Challenger blow up it kind of dashed that dream. I would say a bullfighter
Ara: I often say that we know what we are meant to do when we are children, we just redefine it as adults. So when you look back at yourself as a child, how were you creating art before you knew you were creating art?
Joss: I think just putting things together in my head. My grandparents were very influential. They had several murals in their house along with pieces of art. So just seeing those every day and putting lines together in my head and picking up color. I mean I didn’t even know I was doing it.
Ara: Did you draw or paint anything when you were a child?
Joss: My aunt was a painter and she would babysit me occasionally. She would be working on these Bob Ross kind of oil paintings and she would give me markers and crayons and I would start drawing.
Ara: What is the purpose of art?
Joss: Well to me, it’s a reflection of the times that we are living in and these are pretty messed up times. There’s time for fun and general bubble gum pop and then there’s a time for serious thought provoking art. I mean it’s not going to change the world but people are going to come in and be taken aback by something that they see. But art to me is whatever you want it to be. Whatever the viewer wants it to be.
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