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Life & Work with Joshua Biren

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joshua Biren. 

Hi Joshua, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My name is Joshua Lucian Raphael Biren, and I am a fine artist. I work with painting and drawing to find catharsis, exaggerate the world around me, and convey what I see and how I feel. I primarily work with watercolor, pens, oils, and other 2D mediums. I am currently inspired by the philosophical work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Thomas Nagel concerning existentialism and the absurd. In a world that seems to pick up the pace every day, the release of drawing and painting has become more and more crucial for me and my well-being. 

Born the son of my first art teacher, Kimberly A. Colangelo, I was emboldened to pursue art at a very early age. The first dollar I earned was from a drawing I made. My favorite teachers, professors, and many of my friends are artists, and they have all done nothing but encourage my growth. I have been pursuing my Bachelor’s in Fine Art since 2017, and between Cincinnati State, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College for Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, I am projected to graduate in 2023, provided we are not plagued by another pandemic. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road thus far has been as smooth as my face was in high school. Speaking of which, I hated high school. The only thing that got me through it was the promise of college providing an unforgettable experience, one that I would hold near and dear to my heart. While it has been unforgettable, it has been so for all of the wrong reasons. Before COVID hit the fan, people thought I was just an overly worried alarmist. Then it came, and we were told we would be out of school for two weeks. Two weeks. Two years later and we are still feeling the effects. 

The single-block-wide Jenga tower of a society we have built could not afford to slow down in fear of toppling, so the show had to go on. For students, we suffered through online schooling. Thousands of dollars and too many repressed memories later, I and many others learned nothing. Put yourself in the shoes of an art student. Imagine taking oil painting classes or sculpture and ceramic classes online. Your only reference to what is happening is a small Zoom or WebEx window with a blurry, backlit silhouette of a professor. Their instruction sounds like TV static. The students are either off camera or hallow zombies, dissociating before your eyes. Lectures are just YouTube videos. I can recall almost nothing. Yet, here we are. So many of us have persevered, and I find that to be something special. 

Of course, I have only described a fraction of the impact of just the pandemic. The obstacles that are expected to come with college have rolled off of my back like rain. Compared to survival, things like homework and other trivial obligations just ceased to matter as much. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Right now, I am in a constant state of flux. I am reading more than ever, diving headfirst into art historical movements, concepts, and philosophies. Right now, I am invested in movements after the invention of the camera. The emotional charge within Post-Impressionism, Expressionism, Emotional Realism, and post-war artworks are inspiring my experimentation. While working with drawing, painting, and collage, I am exploring self-representation and reflecting on my environments and experiences. I am known primarily for my watercolor paintings and my miniature sticky note drawings, often clashing playfully colorful compositions with themes of existentialism and isolation. I am experimenting with new ways to work with watercolor, excessively ‘damaging’ the surfaces of the materials and images. Currently, my most proud accomplishment is a recent exhibition I participated in: “Rays of Light”, which was hosted by the Van Der Plas Gallery, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The work I shared was a new watercolor piece that shares a sense of myself in the context of my college experience. The best part about that exhibition was that it was just the beginning. 

How do you define success?
I define success as living a lifestyle that promotes doing what makes you happy. Simple, right? Everyone is entitled to their own definition of success. If fat stacks of cash and a juicy red sports car are what makes you happy, then that’s great. For me, it is having the time and freedom to see friends and family. To be able to travel somewhere when I want and stay for as long as I need. I can only live that way if I work for myself, and as a fine artist, that is what I do. If I can live off of what I love, then I am a success. 

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Image Credits

Joshua L. R. Biren

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