I had the opportunity to meet someone else that took part in Vida/Morte, freshman Brandon Nhem. Brandon has yet to officially declare a major but he has expressed interest in Health or Kinesiology. But it is his first year at CSULB and his second semester. When Brandon isn’t at school he is collecting vinyls. He likes to get his vinyls from Fingerprints here in Long Beach. When he’s looking for vinyls, he likes to maintain a balance between mainstream and lesser known records. He admitted to having a YouTube page that he used to use in high school because he made a few videos then. When the topic of Vida/Morte came up, Brandon thought that what made the art unique was that it underplayed death. In Josh Vasquez’ art, Brandon was able to find a beauty in it that made death seem pleasant.
Artist: Josh Vasquez Exhibition:Vida / Morte Media: Mixed-Media, Painting Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West Website: N/A Instagram:joshybehr
Josh Vasquez is a Los Angeles native and spent most of his life in the Downtown area. From a young age he loved to paint and it seems like his love for the arts has gone unchanged since he is currently an undergraduate at CSULB pursuing his dreams. Vasquez is enrolled in the School Art and studying in Painting and Drawing. When asked numerous times by the visiting ART-110 class what his hobbies were, he replied each time with “I love to paint”. The love for it was apparent in his exhibition, Vida/Morte, where Josh Vasquez illustrated life and death in the same pieces while maintaining the separate identities.
Vasquez described his work as abstract. I’m no art aficionado so I will agree that it is abstract. His pieces were in black and white, such is life and death in the eyes of the artist. He painted on stretched plastic (trash bag) and used spray paints, paint, and permanent markers in a majority of his pieces. His piece, Rosado, features a what may seem like a spiral featuring thick lines from spray paint and thinning inward. The lines throughout his works are jagged and mostly thin. I was later told by the artist that what I thought was a spiral was actually a rose. The rose is a recurring motif in his works as are the skulls.
Josh Vasquez’s work in this gallery is about Life and Death. He purposely uses black and white in his work to denote the differences between the two because the purpose of the gallery is to illustrate the two as being separate ideas. But a harmony is created when they’re placed in the same pieces with flowers (life) and skulls (death). I asked if anything provoked him to create this, perhaps a death in the family or maybe a newborn? But Josh claimed that nothing provoked the art, it was just an idea he had. A classmate had noted some aggression in his piece, Rosado, and asked about his state of mind when he painted it. To that Josh replied that frustration didn’t drive the piece. In fact, he practices meditation so he paints in a meditative space.
His art was beautiful and Rosado was especially captivating. It was the first time I walked into the gallery and Rosado pulled me in. What captures me upon first viewing the piece was what I believed to be the spiral. I received the chaotic appearance of the spiral as being the frightening appearance of death. The looming shadow that overtakes all without notice. The thick lines up top so full of life wore thinner and thinner as the eyes ventured downward. And at the bottom of these lines was the cloud. I later learned that the chaotic cloud is a rose. So what I perceived as death was redefined as being the symbol of life. Thus reinforcing the meaning behind Vida/Morte, that life and death can be within the piece yet maintain separate identities. This resonated within me because often times life can be going terribly. When life seems to be falling right down to rock bottom, I often make the same mistake I made viewing Rosado. I mistake the chaotic, horrifying cloud that I think is overbearing my life for what should actually be the rose in my life. I don’t always see that life is a blessing and a miracle in itself.
There was a church nearby with bells where I grew up and I remember that the bells would reach all of the city of Bellflower and it served as a constant reminder of the time. They rang for multiple reasons: funerals, weddings, Mass, and to remind locals of the time. But the reasons prevalent to this post were the hourly reminders of the time and for funerals.
I remember being a child and being outside (the way kids used to be) hearing the bells ring. I lived there so long I would be able to differentiate the songs they played. Every hours, it would just be a standard song meant to get the attention of the locals. Following the simple song would be individual rings that would indicate the hour. And when the church was holding a funeral, the song of sorrow sang by the bells would fill the air and the area was aware that someone has crossed over.
This is where I got the idea to take this photo. Because bells, to me, have always been associated with time. Bells rang throughout my life to announce transition periods between hours, freedom to long-term commitment, and life to death. So I felt it was appropriate to have a bell present upon the moment of my simulated death to guide me through the transition from life to the afterlife.