Josh Beliso: Artist Statement

     I was born in the South Bay of Los Angeles, immersed in the sleepy, sun-kissed lifestyle of beach culture. While on many family trips to Mexico, I explored the rural wastelands along the Colorado River. There, I discovered the dilapidated and abandoned remains of 1970s vacation homes. I searched for treasure in what was essentially left behind by society. This peaked my infatuation with objects and the way humans have interacted with them throughout time. As I grew older, my interest in the way people lived intertwined with both art and pop culture. ` 

     Using an archaic medium such as stone to embody everyday objects serves as both a love letter to the absurdity associated with materialism, and as a subtle critique. The existence of material endowment is a true and genuine quality pertaining to the human experience, which deserves to be understood. Much of the inspiration for the great stone sculptors throughout history was rooted in rich, exaggerated tales that represented ideas about god and myth. Rather than immortalizing those concepts from folk and lore, my work focuses on what we as a materialistic culture value today – our hairstyles, accessories, and ultimately our identities. By representing these objects using a historically charged medium like stone, it elevates our materialistic trends from fleeting to timeless. These mundane objects become monumental because of their newly realized context.  

     In addition to materialism on a monumental scale, the materials themselves allow for much speculation on their ability to be understood or misunderstood. There is a trickery to perception. The idea behind how materials work, their functions both in a historical context and a contemporary one, provoke me to expand on the how the aesthetic nature of a material can be manipulated. These qualities allow for varying degrees of contrast and speculation. My process generally starts in a moment of absurdity. Once a thought begins, I manage to radicalize it into an unrealistic pursuit before I begin to formulate a tangible idea. I always go to an extreme in thought, then work my way back. Much of my work is based on material transcendence and the ability for one material to mimic or represent other materials, objects, and motions, sometimes within a momentary period. The alchemy of material transcendence is to turn stone to milk.  

     My most recent series "FaceTime" explores the unpredictable nature of the watercolor medium and the playful, murky elements of selfie culture. My take on portraiture depicts playful and facially-expressive, abstract characters whose emotions can be imagined by the beholder. These creatures exist somewhere between imagination and reality, just as we do when we're photographed by the screen of an iPhone. We, like these characters, are transformed into ambiguous archetypal figures rather than humans, as we meticulously curate collections of selfies. 

     As the series progresses, the faces become further simplified into face-like outlines of abstract instruments. Blurring the line between existence and non-existence, identity and lack of identity, in the modern world. It is a somber love affair with modern portraiture. These boisterous blobs of facial expression hold certain importance in the modern age, revealing both the insecurity and happiness that lies underneath them.