Artist: Joshua Thomen
Exhibition: Still Here
Media: Cement, Figurines
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery
Joshua Thomen is currently in his third year at CSULB, working towards a BFA in sculpture from the School of Art’s sculpture program. Especially right now in the world, Joshua finds it extremely difficult to be queer, and his thought process while making his sculpture, was to create something important that embodies who he is. He started this project around the time of the inauguration from this past election. He is inspired by author Tori Morrison in a certain way because she is something who made art during difficult times. He began exploring more about sculpture just last year. With everything that had happened last year in our society, it really motivated him to do this project.
Each cement box would take Joshua about a day to do. The figurines inside the cement are what Joshua refers to as kitsch. These kitsch aren’t meant to be relatively political, so for him, it’s about taking these kitsch that aren’t meant to have a political voice and giving them one. When you step inside the exhibit, you would instantly notice the darkness and the music playing. which are windchimes playing. The windchimes go back to queerness and it’s relationship to femininity, it’s soft while also kind of domestic just like the figurines in the cement. Joshua puts up the black curtains and dimmed the lights because he wanted to create a soft atmosphere. Although the lights were dimmed, it still felt too bright and also had a yellow tone to them, so he proceeds to put blue fabric over the lights to give it a cool tone in the room.
Joshua went to many thrift and antique shops to find his figurines. Since he was little, he always admired the adorable and cute aspects of items, he grew up watching anime and having many cute toys, so he picked his figurines based on how much he liked them. Joshua would pick up paper boxes from Daiso, and also built a wood frame to hold his paper boxes to help hold the shape for his cement pieces. To him, the material naturally talks about gender because you have cement that is industrial and the material gets coated as masculine vs. the figurines which are considered more feminine. The placement of his blocks of cement is in a zig-zag in a way because he wants to make people aware of how they move because it’ll make them more oblivious to move along with the blocks of cement. It’s interesting to see if people are willing to step over the cement or walk around them. Another thing is that a lot of people don’t stop to look at the back of the pieces that has a beautiful quietness about it. The placement of his figurines in his blocks of cement was mainly spontaneous, but he does enjoy having them in the middle center, some he randomly displayed not in the center to add variety.
I really enjoyed this exhibit. At first, I had thought it was closed because I had seen it was dark and there were black curtains, but I saw a note on the curtains which intrigued me to get closer to see what it said. The note had said please come in, which was exactly what I had done. It was very dark in there, I got a scary movie vibe. The first thing I saw was there was nothing on the walls, it was a bunch of cement blocks on the floor with these porcelain objects cemented in. I was a little creeped out at first, till I read Joshua’s paper explaining the meaning behind these pieces. Also after talking to him I got a much better interpretation of it and went back in the second time and really appreciated the art pieces more. At first, I didn’t understand what he meant about these figurines being political but then staring at them again, I got it. They are him, and the cement surrounding the figurines is America. He is stuck in America, not forcefully but stuck in what is happening in America and has to in a way confine to it. After this realization, this exhibit became very powerful to me. It didn’t have as much on their wall like the other exhibits, but it didn’t need to. It reminded me of the type of world we are living in, and to support and love one another. Talking to Joshua reminded me of my friend, who is gay, and after the announcement of Trump as being the next elect president was scared for his life. This is just a few hundred people who had felt and is still feeling scared, it’s much more.