Briefly describe the work you do.
Making art is a way of understanding and communicating how people relate to places and times. Working through history, collaboration, and local resources, I make site-specific projects to engage local communities with certain social and environmental issues. Finished projects range from critical writing, to drawing, to mobile architecture, to performance, to video installation; however, I primarily consider myself a sculptor. The physicality and transformability of sculpting are essential in that my goal is to demonstrate and share agency in shaping the constructed, but malleable, world that embodies us.
The aesthetics of my projects are realized through a process of research, conversation, and access to sites. Through this process, I repurpose social objects and replicate structures to propose more harmonious and diverse futures for places. The narratives I create strive toward social, economic, and environmental progress that is equitable and sustainable.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
As a child I made utopian drawings of houses and places I wanted to build when I grew up. Aside from bizarre and (now) out-of-date mechanical functions, the dwellings had space for intellectual and physical activities that I currently practice to balance my life as an artist and use to adapt to places. Through my studies and professional opportunities, I began traveling extensively and developed my identity as a global citizen, humanitarian, and queer. These traits specifically ground me during travel, and influence my perception of inclusivity within local and public places. I’ve always been an artist in that I’ve always considered and proposed ways places can be designed or reformed to better include people and advance cultural activity.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
This is an excellent thought for me right now. Firstly, through residencies and travel grants, I have been working at different places around the world for the last couple years, and I am currently between studios in Wellington, New Zealand as an alumni Traveling Fellow of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This nomadic period gives me a diverse understanding of how the studio can be considered. Secondly, I often work on-site through participatory processes and public installations. This experience physically extends traditional notions of the studio in that I work outdoors. Lastly, reading and writing are integral to my practice. I often discuss and collaborate on theoretical ideas with people, which happen in numerous places, including virtual space.
The studio is essential to my work. My studio is a flexible place that constantly changes according to what it takes to realize a project. Whether carving sandstone in a large room naturally lit through windows, shooting a video in a field of Texas Bluebonnets, salvaging materials from a condemned bowling alley, or writing an article in an airport, my studio is a place of thinking through and working toward visual and spatial progress, wherever that happens to be.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I am very interested in adaptation and knowledge exchange through my work. I consider this not only for the integrity of my discourse, but also for the social contexts in which I work. With that said, I fulfill many roles in order to engage with communities and challenge their greater social contexts. Aside from the obvious, I have been an activist, biker, choreographer, cinematographer, composer, Deputy Member of the Pink Posse, general contractor, league bowler, lumberjack, scavenger, spokesperson, subway passenger, urban farmer, and water cultist. My intention is not to master or mimic these roles, but to engage with a diverse range of people and exchange knowledge through unique methods of cultural interaction.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I’m currently working full time. I typically have months of reading, writing, and sketching, then months of physical production. There are times when I am excited about my work to the point of insomnia. These nights are when ideas and forms flow most fluidly. Furthermore, many ideas best solidify while in transit.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
During the last five years, the conceptual basis of my work has grown to function within larger social movements, including decolonization, queer theory, and sustainable development. My work is now dependent on history and collaboration, and I understand social context a medium, as opposed to my previous reliance on Modernist notions of mediums. My finished work is active research, or a solution, that foresees future projects and innovation. In the next five years, I envision my projects to grow in scale, collaborative capacity, and through critical writing.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would be an art-architecture historian. This is actually my next academic pursuit, while continuing my art practice. I would also like to be a professor in the near future and continue curatorial projects. I’ve been very inspired by the exhibition I’m currently co-curating with curator Max Fields titled “Public Communication: Performing Knowledge of the Body” that opens in January 2015 at BLUEorange Contemporary in Houston, Texas.
Joe Joe Orangias is a visual artist who intersects fine arts, architecture, and critical theory. He holds an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in partnership with Tufts University, and a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been exhibited at galleries and on-site in America, France, Germany, Hong Kong, and Scotland. Orangias received an Art School Alliance Visual Arts Fellowship from the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, where he worked with the Design for the Living World Studio; and residencies at ART342 Foundation in Fort Collins, Colorado; Atelier OPA: Original Products & Architecture in Tokyo; and the Galveston Artist Residency on Galveston Island, Texas, where he realized the Pink Dolphin Monument that permanently resides in R.A. Apffel Park. He is currently developing a project in Wellington, New Zealand as a 2014 SMFA Traveling Fellow.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.