Josh Keyes: The Art of Nature


The work of Oakland-based artist Josh Keyes offers a satirical look at the impact urban sprawl has on the environment and surmises, with the aid of scientific slices and core samples, what could happen if we continue to infiltrate and encroach on our rural surroundings.

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“My work often contains a hybridization of concepts and imagery that express global concerns about ecological, political, and militarism issues. I try to create work that fuses my personal mythology and imagery with these concerns. The result is a continuous and evolving pattern of fragmented imagery that slowly unfolds and folds like a patchwork quilt. The work functions for me as a record of both my personal history and interpretation of events in the world.” – Josh Keyes.

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Featuring scenes of nature intermingling with man-made designs and the debris of human existence, Keyes’ art is simple yet thought-provoking. He manages to entice debate about the environment and our place within it while gaining critical assessment of his concept and work.
Josh explains:

“I feel that animal imagery still holds a sense of mystery, and can evoke feelings and emotions in a different way than the human figure. I have always enjoyed the use of personification in the work of artists. It is a way of stepping outside human perception, in doing so it calls attention to the human condition without depicting a human figure.”


He invites the viewer to derive what they will from the images, whether it is confusion, disgust or delight, any reaction is a worthy reaction in the eyes of an artist.


In the past, Josh has described the way he works, an interesting insight into to the man behind the work and what inspires him:

“Like most artists, I do a lot of research. I look at the imagery in campy old sci-fi movies, and enjoy looking through ancient textbooks from the 1940-70’s. I am often captivated by something I see on the street, signs, graffiti, animals, and human interaction. I like to work through these ideas in my sketchbook before I start a drawing or painting. Once an idea feels right I will start laying it out, working on the composition is the most exciting part of the process. The organization of the pictorial elements is a challenge. I find the compositions of Cezanne, Jaques Luis David, Caravaggio, and Piero Della Francesca very inspiring. I like to orchestrate the angles and visual elements so that the viewer’s eye moves continuously through the work.”


A bit of a home-bird, happy to stay at home, Josh spends up to 9 hours a day on his work, which is why he manages to produce such an extensive portfolio. He earned his bachelor’s degree at The School of the Art Institute, Chicago and his master’s degree in Fine Arts at Yale. To date, he has exhibited in galleries in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York and has been published in New American Painters.


Source 1, 2, 3, 4

We’ll even throw in a free album.