Josh Dorman

I want to know how the past lives in the present. When I use cut-outs from old books and maps, I’m aware that their meaning is from another time period, so that meaning therefore lives in an altered way in a contemporary context. What does this engraving of the gears of a cotton gin mean to us now? And what happens in our eyes and minds when it’s paired with the spiral forms from a diagram of the cell structure of the cotton plant? What does an 1890 map fragment mean in a world where we have GPS? These physical paper artifacts are folded into who we are now, yet we are forgetting our connection to them. I am constantly foraging for peculiar old books—like a hunter, or a botanist. I find disused knowledge in diagrams, charts, engravings, antique textbooks. Part of my goal is to make people see the value of old printed imagery, which depended for its existence on the filter of a human mind and hand, rather than on the camera lens.

By recontextualizing these antique images within drawn and painted worlds, I aim to generate paintings that feel dislocated in time. I generate fields of visual detritus, then bury and excavate, wander between flesh, feather, metal, bone, rock. Living ferns stain skeletal fractal forms on old maps. Gears, mushrooms, coronae and cells mesh, echo, power machines or hover weightless. 

The worlds of form and image that I create have an internal logic, like a poem or novel. There are visual rhymes and dozens of narratives, but I do not prescribe a single reading. My aim is for the paintings to be simultaneously hyper-specific and completely open-ended.


- J.D.