Josh Talbott grew up in suburban/rural Georgia in the southern US. His first work as a professional artist was in scenic painting and murals for various production companies. An attempt to deepen his well of possibilities led to New Orleans where as a street artist he sold works to people from all over the world before loosing everything in hurricane Katrina. With short stints in Santa Fe and then Los Angeles Josh arrived in the small coastal city of Los Osos, California where he lives and works today. His curiosity is voracious and interests are many, including scuba/ free diving, sailing, surfing, gardening, geology, rock hounding, rationality, AI, history, and philosophy. In his studio there is always an audiobook on, and outside of the studio there are all manner of activities making there way into his work. He has many private collectors scattered across the globe and murals in San Francisco.
We live in a time of extreme and accelerated change, growing complexity, and specialization. At every stage in our human trajectory from primitive beginnings crawling out of the sea to the present gauntlet of challenges, our thinking tools and their uses are central to the story of what it means to be human. My work is informed by a fascination with thinking tools and the eﬀects of programming and environment through the diﬀerent phases of life and our capacity for storytelling.
My practice consists of constructing small-scale still life scenarios of toys and other artifacts of human development, then creating photorealistic acrylic paintings of these scenes. The work juxtaposes the familiar and playful with a contemporary, complex, adult world. While I am interested in the science of the mind, and what it means to be a human, my work seldom features the human form, focusing instead on the objects and items that are frequently left behind. As such, the subject of the painting becomes the viewer him or herself because their own humanity is ultimately what is revealed.
My work honors toys as thinking tools for small people and the scenes depicted explore the ways in which the culture of our formative years leaves a lasting mark and continues to shape our storytelling. The plastic artifacts of my formative years carry memories of simultaneous confusion and wonder at the world around me. These are sensations and emotions still very much present in my life. What were your imaginings and dramas when you played with toys? Are you living them today?
The multileveled still life paintings of familiar toys are bright and accessible and connect to the viewer's nostalgia and playfulness while provoking deeper insights into our current evolutionary, cultural, and technological moment. I place each little curio with care into meaningful relationship to their interlocutors and environment. The plastic dinosaurs often depicted are emblematic of childhood curiosities, of great wonder and speculation at past worlds and the depth of evolutionary time, and yet they are made of a material that illustrates our shortsightedness, a quintessential human quality that makes it quite possible that these plastic creations will outlast us all.
I do my best to draw inspiration and resources from everywhere to build a visual language. In my divergent path I find the musical compositions and the story of composer, Philip Glass inspiring. The story of his devotion to his craft and his subsequent successes have encouraged and inspired me. I'm influenced by writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Sapolsky, and Yuval Noah Harari, the many books by Simon Winchester, Daniel Dennet, Robert Wright, Hank Green and John Green. I find educators and thinkers who explore mind and consciousness, AI, rationality, kindness and human behavior, social perspective and geologic time on a path that will change the future. Through these endeavors, I have devoted my life to learning, so my art and interests inform one another which brings an enrichment to both. In essence, I am convinced the more things you learn the more toys with which you have to play.