Josie Morway: The Fortitude and Fragility of the Natural World
Boston-based painter Josie Morway rests comfortably in ambiguity. “I want to acknowledge the impossibility of accurately declaring where we are in the arc of our civilization,” the self-taught artist says, describing the idea behind her latest body of work, Course of Empire.
Titled after a series of paintings by English-born American artist Thomas Cole, Course of Empire runs through Dec. 23, 2023, at Corey Helford Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. Josie’s ink and oil paintings combine Dutch Masters’ meticulous techniques with a hyper-modern color palette that illuminates the fragility and fortitude of the natural world.
“Thomas Cole created a series of paintings called The Course of Empire almost 200 years ago, ostensibly as a cry for the protection of nature against industrial encroachments,” Josie says, explaining the inspiration behind her series. “Over time and through changing political climates, perceptions of the artist and his work have swung wildly; at times, he’s been considered a reactionary elitist—an early NIMBY of sorts, defending the interests of his conservative patrons—and at other times he’s been hailed as an effective advocate, not just for nature, but for the people, for workers and immigrants such as himself, against the predations of industrial barons and the commercial elite.”
Painted with an intense reverence that escalates into surrealism, Josie’s work is poetic, politically charged, and darkly comical all at once. Course of Empire contemplates the sanctity of wildlife in the face of human degradation and seeks to challenge the assumptions we thrust upon our interactions with the wilderness.
“The role of art is to offer a vision of the world as it could be, as well as to comment on the historical moment,” says Josie. “But when the moment feels unnamable and analysis moot, its role is also to offer something ineffable but resonant, a sensory snapshot of how it feels to live in this time. The spin upon waking, the jungle inside, the source of that flash of light. The seeds in the bank, the cats in the streets. The bird in your heart and the wave at your door.”
Course of Empire runs through Dec. 23, 2023, at Corey Helford Gallery in downtown L.A. alongside Hikari Shimoda’s Questions for Living in the World. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website here.
“I want to acknowledge the impossibility of accurately declaring where we are in the arc of our civilization.” — Josie Morway
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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