This week we welcome Josh Steinbauer. Steinbauer is an artist and filmmaker (Paper Stars, Cap’n Flapjack). His work has been seen in Heaven, Third Ward, No Moon, Gen Art, 3 Walls galleries, Harvard Art museum, American Folk Art Museum, and published in numerous culture sites like Nowhere, Terrain, In Parenthesis, Aerogram, Moving Poems, and the Times of India. He invented the Sloppy Joe-nut (which tasted delicious but never took off due to its unfortunate name). He maintains the opinion that Mark Zuckerburg should be in jail and billionaires should be liquidated. He lives in New York City.
“I think a lot of us had a moment in the quarantine when we looked up from our screens and wondered if the internet wasn’t making us crazy. Anxious newsfeeds had become an unaccredited bachelor’s degree in epidemiology. Facebook turned into some racist uncle’s meme factory. Twitter, a snuff film library of police violence. Instagram, in fairness, was a lot of sour-dough bread, but we were jacked into all of it like Neo in the Nebuchadnezzar. The presumed quiet of isolation met the information age not with internal enlightenment, but withdrawal shakes—our digital connection was five coffees deep in the doom-scroll jitters.
Over the course of pandemic unplugging and a return to long-form, I started a portrait series of the authors keeping me company. Blind contour sketches were modeled with volumetric cross-hatching and blendable marker to create a watery, surrealist portrait coupled with hand drawn text of the authors’ words.
The project currently includes over 80 authors ranging from essayists (Robert Reich, Mona Eltahawy; to memoirists and poets (Toni Jensen, Brian Broome, Li-Young Lee); from well-known fiction writers (Louise Erdrich, Haruki Murakami); to relative unknowns (Thi Bui, Damon Bishop). And of course, my reading list went where the year took it — 2020 was a racial reckoning, so: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Mychal Denzel Smith, Derrick Bell, Claudia Rankine. We also watched democracy wrestling with fascism, so: Timothy Snyder, P.E. Moskowitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jared Yates Sexton.
Portrait of a Book Report is a portrait of a year asking questions. What, from this noisy connection, will we fill ourselves with? What can be done to amplify voices of reason and beauty?”
To date, the project has culminated in two Brooklyn exhibitions, selected drawings have been published in literary culture magazines the Offing, Harpy Hybrid, and Rain Taxi. The project also expanded to include an audio component — a 40 minute quarantine radio play “Legacy (after Joe Frank)” published by In Parenthesis.
See more of Steinbauer’s work from the series here.