Joshua Solis is hispanic, born in December 27, 1978, from Santa Maria, CA, second generation in the US, first-generation with a college education. He was raised Catholic and was inculcated his parents’ cultural values and traditions. In Spring of 2017, he was able to achieve the degree of MASTER OF FINE ART in sculpture at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California. He now says with pride; He embraces his past which has guided him, step by step, into the artist he is today.
His practice is interdisciplinary, including painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, installation, photography, audio and sound recordings, video, writing and performance. He approaches medium and materials according to their formal and conceptual significance. Currently, it is crucial to him that the materials he selects be ones that trigger memories of his past. The acts of making, cutting, twisting, tearing, wrapping, heating, burning, and/ or banging provide him with a sense of healing and acceptance: These labor intensive acts that could be associated with violence or even torture have allowed many of those brief past memories, which had faded away, to awaken.
Kacy (K): Hi Josh, thank you so much for being here! Can we start off by telling me about your art practice and what’s your art meant to speak for?
Josh (J): I guess the main point for my practice is telling my stories. Stories of my experience of being an immigrant child. My parents migrated back and forth between the United States and Mexico. So I tell the stories using the voice of that child who had struggles coming back and forth between both countries. I try to find materials that will trigger memories which have been fading away from my head. Making works of those personal memories provide me a sense of closure.
Niños que aún sueñan | Kids Who Still Dream 2016-18 K: Some people say that art is a therapy and these childhood memories are the foundation of child development. I remember you told me that you are always interested in art, but you were doing something else before becoming an artist. Can you tell me a little bit about your background before you switched?
J: I have liked art since I was a child. I would draw and I was a good drawer until I was about 13 or 14. I had a teacher in Mexico who commissioned me to do 72 large drawings. I finished the project but she never paid for my work and she failed me from her class. After that, I kind of stopped making art work. When I came back from Mexico, I was working in the fields harvesting broccoli for a few years. Then I worked in a grocery store. Years past and all my brothers were finishing their college education except for me. For many years I was pointed out as a bad example to the family. That’s why I decided to go back to school.
I went to Allan Hancock College; it’s a two-year community college in Santa Maria, CA. Since I knew how to draw, I thought Architecture was the best for me and decided I wanted to be an architect with a minor in drama. It was probably about 10 years before I started back to make art again. One of my instructors in drawing classes told me that I should consider art as a major because I was really good. That brought art back to my attention. I like to draw and I never thought of art as a major. After a couple semesters of taking art classes, I decided to switch back to art because I knew that I enjoyed doing it more than I did doing architecture. I transferred to UC Davis for my BA. Then I got accepted to SF State for my MFA. I think what I liked about Architecture is actually the drawing part of it. I feel I am enjoying being an artist more than being an architect.
Breakdown, 2019 VHS tape of Breakdown (1997), 144 x 84 inches
Why did I choose these things? In order to dig deeper, I started writing stories. Little by little, it all started to make sense. It’s kind of like recreating some memory, but not illustrating the whole thing, just the little glimpse of it. Maybe I'll tell you the story, maybe not. Maybe we won't really get the story.
K: I am so glad that your instructors in drawing classes brought art back to your attention so that we get to see your artwork here. I really admire your work. Your art is so powerful but at the same time so effortless. Can you tell me a little more about your piece showing at Root Division now or how do you foster your creative practice? Like how did you develop from an idea into an artwork?
J: My MFA program helped me a lot because things kind of like just flew naturally. Before the program, I was choosing materials just to experiment with them but not trying to figure out why. For example, when I would find and pick up tires from the road, I felt nostalgia, and, memories from my past came to my mind, but, I didn't really push myself at all to try to figure out why. Same with VHS tapes, my personal movie collection: even though the technology was obsolete, I couldn’t get rid of them and decided to make art with them without asking the question on “Why am I doing what I’m doing?.” But I think it all developed in my MFA program. Why did I choose these things? In order to dig deeper, I started writing stories. Little by little, it all started to make sense. It’s kind of like recreating some memory. But not illustrating the whole thing, but the little glimpse of it. Maybe I'll tell you the story, but maybe not. Maybe we won't really get the story. You know, like with the trash balls (Kids Who Still Dream, 2016-18). There are some people who would tell me “Oh, I used to make trash balls in Europe!” People from Africa also told me the same thing. So I know there are other people who have similar stories like mine. It seems like when viewers see and interact with these balls, they would be transported back in time. Like in my other piece (Waters of 1983, 2017), I'm recreating the water currents that took my baby brother, right? Because I told you my story, you know what my piece is about. But for those who don't know the story behind it, they could interpret my installation and say “Oh, it's about migration” or “So, it's about people who cross the boarder river between Mexico and the United States.” When I made my installation, I wasn’t thinking of the line boarder, but still, It’s open to interpretation.
Aguas de 1983 | Waters of 1983, 2017 K: I think I finished all the questions I wanted to ask. Thank you so much for spending time with me Joshua!
Website | https://joshuasolis.org/
Instagram | @joshuasolis78
The interview with Joshua is part of an ongoing photo-sculputure project "21 Grams, the Weight of Souls - Grocery Bag". His headshot is converted into a soft sculpture to capture the external and internal struggle of who were battling between having a remunerative career and pursuing their dreams.
21 Grams, the Weight of Souls - Grocery Bag #5 Printable fabric and resin 28'' (H) x 12'' (W) x 4'' (D) 2020