CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
JO: I make work about the intertwined histories of pharmaceuticals and color. My hyper-synthetic paintings, sculptures, drawings, and videos are infused with actual pharmaceuticals and chemicals. I appropriate imagery from art history and advertising to create abstracted, pointillist, color-saturated works that explore the ecstasy and toxicity of our molecular present. There is no single style, but rather a broad range of styles put in service of the ideas.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JO: Mostly a combination of art history and corporate advertising. Historically, I’m responding to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters; but I also draw heavy influence from modern and contemporary German artists, particularly Polke, Genzken, Kippenberger, and Zipp. In addition, the aesthetics of pharmaceutical advertising are critical to my practice.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
JO: It varies, but usually it starts with finding an existing image or series of images taken from advertising or art history and then builds from there. There is typically some level of research into the history of that image. A back-and-forth with the ideas and form creates the work.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
JO: I prefer not to prescribe meaning (so to speak) to the work. Part of my interest in pharmaceuticals is that I believe that all individuals have some sort of relationship to them. Some might embrace pharmaceuticals and they may have saved one’s life; others have lost family members to them; many of us are in places in between and have complicated relationships to drugs. So, in the end, each viewer brings their own experience to interact with the work.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
JO: My lifestyle is relatively routine. I can currently focus a lot of time on my art, which is a privilege. I split my studio time between reading, administrative work, and making the actual work. I live in New Haven, CT, a small city, so life is pretty quiet here. I try to spend time in New York as much as possible to see friends and art.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
JO: I don’t think this is a question for me to answer for others, as each artist has their own way of working. For my own practice, I usually do both. I make a plan and allow for improvisation to enter the equation at some point.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
JO: That persistence is essential.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
JO: Not at all. I think of style and taste as tools for a sense of pleasure and self-representation, but ultimately I don’t believe they are at all important on a day to day level. Maybe this is odd, but I don’t see art as very much related to style or taste.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
JO: Making work without knowing if anyone will see it.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
JO: When I am in a state of flow in the studio, where a day goes by, and it feels like minutes, and when I am done, I have created something that feels promising. That flow happens without conscious effort (but knowing that a lot of conscious effort led up to that moment).
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
JO: As mentioned before, many German artists, such as Polke, Genzken, Kippenberger, and Zipp, are highly influential. They have a level of conceptual rigor, visual energy, material experimentation, and freedom that I find thrilling.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
JO: Technology in its broadest sense has always been a tool for artists, and today it is no different. The technologies are just different. Many of them ultimately do the same things, just in different or faster or more precise ways. So using technology is absolutely useful if one wants to use it. I like to think about what any artist, be they Monet or Warhol or Hesse would be doing today with today’s technologies.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
JO: Perhaps, but I am suspicious of the veneration of creativity that is given to artists. I think all individuals have the potential to be creative and view the world in their own unique way, and in ways that warrant sharing with others. Some of us have the privilege to do so as visual artists, but it can take many different forms. While I love to talk to other artists, some of my most exciting and inspiring conversations happen with others who would not describe themselves as creative.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
JO: Yes, definitely. I have many favorites, but I love Berlin, for the art but also the culture, food, and general feeling.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JO: Some books essential to my work include Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era by Paul B. Preciado, Modern Art and the Remaking of Human Disposition by Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen, and all of Jonathan Crary’s work.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
JO: To push my work to reach new audiences. One of the most satisfying things about showing art is putting it into dialogue with other exciting artists working today.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
JO: It means I am committing to a practice of thought and making that generates an aesthetic object. I know that sounds a little pompous, but I take this seriously – for me, it is not casual act.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
JO: Probably something by LCD Soundsystem, which I have been playing a lot in the studio lately. Their music echoes what I strive for in the process of making, which includes repetition, layering, and entering a kind of flow.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
JO: Thank you for the opportunity to share my work.