Artist: Joshua Thomen
Exhibition: Still Here
Media: Mixed Media
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery
Joshua Thomen is a CSULB undergraduate who is working toward his BA in the School of Art’s Sculpture Program. Joshua is not from Long Beach, but the Pasadena area. He had discussed that as a child he had enjoyed watching cartoons, anime, and loved anything that was cute. These interests and what brought him joy is also reflected in his work. The ideas that his work explores is the ideas of feeling trapped, taking a political perspective on the feeling of being trapped, innocence, and the topic of queerness.
Formal Analysis: In terms of the formal qualities of the work, each cement piece looks almost identical. Each of them are the same size, and are the same color. From the front each cinderblock features a unique figurine. From the back however, the figurine is not visible. Each of the blocks of cement are straight and have the same lines. In each piece, what stands out is the figurine that is trapped within each piece. These pieces varied from different colors ranging from black to pink, and were different sizes. Some were almost as big as the cinderblock that they were trapped in, and others were smaller. There was only one piece of cement that featured two figurines, but they were identical pieces. The pieces were also distinct in what they actually were. The figurines were bunnies, cats, dogs, a chipmunk and a clown. In reference to the art piece as a whole, the rhythm seems to be the same in terms of the repetition of each figurine being trapped. However, although that may be the case, I realized that some of the figurines were not centered. Some of the figurines were near the edge of cement instead of the center. The figurines in each piece were also either perfect in the middle and straight or a bit slanted or to the side. It is also important to note that the way the pieces were positioned was in a s-shaped form. In terms of texture, the figurines seemed to be made of porcelain, making the texture look smooth. The texture of the cement appeared to be rough and bumpy, the complete opposite of the texture of the figurines. This exhibit also features the sound of wind chimes playing in the background providing a soft and peaceful feel to the overall piece. The lighting was also soften by the thin fabric that was covering the source of light.
Content Analysis: In terms of what was on Thomen’s mind in creating the piece, he wanted to make a big emphasis on the feeling of entrapment. His ideas surrounding this piece focused on the political aspect of America at the moment. In terms of the context of politics, the cement seems to represent the struggle of how politics seems to strain a person. Thomen wanted to put into a physical form the feeling he and others in America feel with how the presidency turned out to be. He took the innocence of the figurines with the cement to show that even within America right now we feel very weak and frustrated knowing how trapped we feel. His ideas also wanted to capture masculinity and femininity. This is shown in the way that typically figurines, such as the ones he used, are figurines that your grandmother would have in her house. This then gives the representation of femininity. In terms of the cement blocks, they on the other hand are tough and rough, which then represents masculinity. The idea trying to be demonstrated here is the balance between masculinity and femininity. The way that Thomen positioned the blocks was also trying to press the idea of a type of wall. This wall reference is in connection to the constant talk of the wall during the Trump presidency. In terms of the lighting and the sounds, Thomen wanted to provide a domestic feel with the wind chimes and a dreamy affect with the low lighting in the room.
My Experience: After viewing the exhibit by Joshua Thomen, I realized how much of an effect it had on me. When I first entered and read the description and took in the exhibit as whole with the sculptures, the lighting, and the music, it ultimately made me shed tears. To me the artist’s ideas were exactly the feelings and emotions that I am currently feeling in this political climate. As I took in the message and looked at the innocent porcelain figurines, it hit me personally and I fully understood what he was trying to express. As he was speaking about the exhibit and experiencing the exhibit, I knew that the way I felt everyday with how politics are going in America is how he felt as well. The way that we feel so weak, frustrated and ultimately trapped because we don’t know what to do or what we can do. His perspective on America right now is how I feel as well, and I feel that his exhibit clearly demonstrates that with just subtle sculptures which express so many feelings.