Sebastian Joseph | S3

Artist Statement

"The Anthropocene is not only a period of manmade disruption. It is also a moment of blinking self-awareness, in which the human species is becoming conscious of itself as a planetary force. We’re not only driving global warming and ecological destruction; we know that we are.” (Blasdel, 2)


     My work is firmly grounded in the Anthropocene. To paint is to produce waste. To live with that waste and abuse of the planet is the dichotomy that anyone who lives with their head above the sand must wrestle with daily. When we start our cars, when we unwrap a head of lettuce and stick it in a plastic bag, when we run the AC overnight, when we shower a bit too long: you live with that little psychic tug that you are not, in fact, a model of the change you want to see in the world. Painting is a perfect use of that cognitive dissonance. If painting is effective it moves you in a personal way. My paintings are all post-apocalyptic: they exist in the wake of environmental disaster. Like Hilma af Klint I am painting for the future. Like Greta Thunberg I am massively concerned with the pace of change and lack of response in our elected leaders.


     I am attempting to depict moments of psychic upheaval. Tension created by the constant cognitive dissonance of living in an inflexible, lumbering society in which the individual must be asked to sacrifice, and to do so soon!


     I am aware of the hypocrisy of creating such waste in the mission of depicting the dissonance caused by it, but it is no different from eating meat, refilling my gas tank, throwing out plastic, which are things that most everyone does that when multiplied by billions are destroying the planet. How do I live with it? Well how do any of us? Maybe I'll go vegan, start riding a bike instead, start hording plastic in the basement. The point is, I think, that the change has to be sweeping, and come from a cultural shift in priorities. The high school kids with their strikes are a wonderful and positive sign that future generations might figure it out, but they have a good point in saying we don't have time to wait for them to do it for us.


     I believe there are people better suited than me to make the argument for sweeping cultural change, and faster cultural change, like Greta Thunberg, but great social movement needs to be accompanied by art inspired by it. I guess my paintings operate on the assumption that it is both Too Late and at the same time Not Time Yet. We needed to start, in earnest, 50 years ago, but we didn't. So now it is way past due. I am just a simple man, I like hockey and steaks and beer, but my painting is my way of participating in the conversation about how we will evolve in the Anthropocene, and wondering what art suits a society which is due for some gigantic shifts in the status quo- whether we like it or not.


     I'm a dreamer, not a planner, and right now my dreams are darkened by living in a society in which I am made so culpable for the damage we are wreaking on the world. I am preoccupied with my small role in destroying the planet, simply by participating in the society of the disposable object, and I wonder if anyone else feels that way too?



Works Cited


      Blasdel, Alex. “'A Reckoning for Our Species': the Philosopher Prophet of the Anthropocene.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 June 2017,

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