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The Scarlet & Black

Artist Profile: Josh Anthony ’17

Photo+by+Ellen+Schoenmaker.
Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.

Josh Anthony ’17 considers himself a newcomer to the art world, but has already created work that is fresh and thought provoking as it meditates on the commonplace. Anthony sat down with the S&B’s Keli Vitaioli to discuss process, progress and the potential of his art in the future.

The S&B: How did you get started as an artist, and why do you keep making art?

Anthony: See, I don’t know about the word artist. I don’t have anything against the word, it’s a fine word, but it feels a little strange in the context [of] me. I don’t know if I would call myself an artist. This “art stuff,” this making things, I wasn’t really into it before college. It was really just my dad that used to be super into it, so he would do my projects for me in school. So he kind of introduced me to the stuff, and I was here, and I was like I can’t write papers, I suck at it, it’s just not going to happen. So I was looking for a class that was more hands on and physically involved. I took [Introduction to Studio Art] kind of on a whim just to see what happens and intro was … just a super good class. The professor I had, Professor [Matthew] Kluber, he obviously played a major role in the fact that I’m now a studio major, just [like] all the people in the art department. It was the people in that class, the members of the art department, all of that who have just continued to be so helpful and supportive — so that’s what keeps me going. I feel like … it’s the people that keep me going, honestly. The classmates you have are super important. Making things together with other people is super important — even if it’s not collaborative. … Without them I don’t think I would keep doing it.

S&B: What’s your process like? Do you go into a piece knowing what you want to do, or do you develop your ideas as you keep going?

JA: This is one that I’ve really struggled with. The thing was, I mostly tended to work in sort of a preplanned way. I would want to have as much of it planned out in my mind as I could, and then the rest was just this execution process to make some physical representation of the plan I had in my mind. I think that it can be helpful, for me, to work in that way sometimes, but I would spend a lot of time sitting and just thinking about things as opposed to actually doing them. And that would make me start later, and not actually get involved with the material [which] are not necessarily good things — it just stopped being fun. It would physically hurt my brain, and I was like this isn’t fun anymore. … I want to switch it up and be more open and not necessarily have a strict plan and kind of see where things go. Hopefully I can work out a nice balance.

S&B: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done?

JA: Of mine? Oh god. … I don’t know, that’s so incredibly difficult to answer.

S&B: Was there any work that was really fulfilling to finish?

JA: There was a series of prints that I’ve done that I tried to recreate the color of my best friend’s coat from memory, and I would go in the studio every day and see if I could recreate that color. I didn’t have a reference — I just wanted to see if I could match it to my memory, and that was a fun experience.

S&B: What were your favorite art courses at Grinnell?

JA: I think the most fundamental class [was] definitely [Introduction to Drawing], because drawing was definitely something I thought I could not do. And I still struggle with it immensely, but it just radically altered my perception. And Lee Running’s seminar last semester — I got to work collaboratively with my best friend Sarah Hubbard [‘17], and it was a tough experience … definitely a super worthwhile, super rewarding experience. I was just really enjoying myself, and I had massive amounts of help from everyone. It made me aware of how innately you need to depend on people even if you aren’t working jointly on one thing.

S&B: Who are your inspirations as an artist?

JA: In terms of other artists, it all started off with [Mark] Rothko’s work. The funny thing was I saw it in person, and it’s still insanely good, but I just didn’t resonate the way I thought I would. Gerhard Richter, another artist, just oh my gosh. He does these insane paintings, like, he did one of his uncle in his Nazi outfit, like, you’re painting your uncle in a Nazi outfit. He said he paints to empathize with people, and I was like, wow, that’s insane that makes so much sense, and I kind of want to do that a little bit. Another big inspiration is Agnes Martin. I’m not too familiar with her work, but just her lifestyle, like, she moved to New Mexico and just lived there without electricity and plumbing and made paintings. As far as the people who keep me going, it’s the people immediately around me — family, friends, professors, everyone in the art department. The people are super important.

S&B: What would you do if you weren’t doing art?

JA: Realistically, I don’t know. I feel like the experiences I’ve had in being a studio major have fundamentally altered me. … I’ve got a list of dream jobs I’ll never be. I want to be a racecar driver, but that’s probably never going to happen.

S&B: In five years, what do you hope for yourself and your art?

JA: I just want to keep making stuff. Honestly, I’m very scared that I’ll stop. I was talking to Running and she thinks a lot of it is just showing up every day and doing something every day. … Hopefully in five years, even if I’m not painting things for galleries or racing around the world, I’ll still be able to be involved in art in some way.”

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