There are three large windows in Joshua Hogan's studio.
As the sun rises, the trio admits the light caught in the morning air and the little street scenes of the Bloomfield neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
Perched from the 3rd story, Hogan can watch bustle and tread of foot passengers as they pass through the shops below. He hears the daily sounds – the ringing of neighboring church bells and the local halves of telephone conversations.
Josh Hogan in his studio
He has a unique vantage point of the observed street.
From above, he can peer down at the embroidery of the community. He can see the way that all the individuals – even, strangers – interact, interrelate, and interconnect. The individuals are like water droplets caught in the same spider web.
He can watch the web of sidewalks and the walkers, or, what Hogan would likely call, the way and the wayfarers.
The word “wayfarers,” which is poetic and literary as it sounds, carries a remarkable significance for Hogan.
In fact, he calls his paintings wayfarers because they model the meshwork of social life.
Hogan found the term “wayfarers” in a book by the Lebanese-American artist and writer, Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet was first published in 1923. The book’s philosophical ponderings explore the human condition in 26 wholesome parables.
“Wayfarer” comes from the chapter entitled, “On Crime and Punishment.” Gibran writes,
You are the way and the wayfarers. And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone. Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.
In his enlightening and thoughtful way, the narrator describes how we, as humans, are all travelers on the same path and our actions affect those before and after us. We are both path and pedestrian, “way and wayfarer.”
This truth of interconnectivity translates directly into Hogan’s art.
“The shapes in my paintings interact and communicate with each other. I intend for these shapes — my ‘wayfarers’ — to illuminate how every choice and action we make affects other people,” says the artist.
Josh Hogan is an abstract painter. His work is complex and deep. His shapes billow and float along the luminous background.
It is a beauty that eludes language.
Even the titles he gives his paintings – Sand of the Sea, A Window Worth Keeping, Efflorescence – sound like the preserved fragments of old proverbs.
The artists who have most influenced him are ones who, as he says, “express the feeling of something, more than just paint on a surface.” These artists – Turner, Gorky, and Monet – have a soft presence in his paintings that is is ghostlike and lovely.
In spite of these recognizable influences, Hogan’s aesthetic slips away from any single stylistic bracket.
The paintings have relics from various movements – an abstract expressionists’ self-exploration, a surrealist’s shapes, an impressionist’s brushstrokes – as if they were all trapped in amber
His richly influenced style also comes from his own personal journeys. His path has led him to various countries – Egypt, Morocco, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam – that have all shaped his art.
Inside Hogan’s studio
“[The trip] laid a foundation for the shapes I continue to create to today,” he says.
Hogan places these shapes he has gathered from around the world and creates a metaphor for the way that all things relate.
The man buying coriander in the aromatic Moroccan spice market is not so unlike the teenager buying a CD in the Bloomfield record store.
Hogan’s paintings invoke concealed connections; they tie together things that are unlikely and distant. They are paintings make you think as if you are on the 3rd story, or the rooftop, or higher.
They are paintings that make you believe that perhaps there is a vantage point where, when you look down, everything is rendered into incredible abstraction. We are all the delicate shapes that float together on an earthen background.