By MARIEPET MANGOSING, November 2021
Joey Feldman is a man of many passions. He is a painter, illustrator, lover of rap music and runs a streetwear merch line that sells out in hyper-speed. He even dabbles in the NFT space. Through his variety of pursuits, there seems to be one major through line that leads us into his creative ether: an inherent desire to parcel his experiences.
Though Feldman is a self-described homebody—“I won’t even go to a concert anymore”—his approach and work bears in mind the collective existing in the zeitgeist past, present, and beyond. He recalls the time he taught a non-credit illustration class at an institute back on the East Coast, where “all the teachers and students were in competition like they were afraid of each other. When everything falls to shit, artists should come together. It gives me hope to keep going.” He notes that he’s heavily influenced by the synergetic nature of rap and listens to it while he works. “It’s all so collaborative. It’s like the new punk rock.”
Growing up in Philadelphia, Feldman didn’t quite vibe with the more conservative art sensibility driven mostly by the city’s fine art institute. Feldman began working at the now defunct Tower Records in Philadelphia from 1989 to 1991, where he was exposed to art that was better suited to ultimately inform and solidify his artistic perspective when he later moved to the West Coast to shape and develop his own style.
Feldman cites Ralph Steadman to be one of his earlier influences. Recalling the time when his boss at said record store brought in Steadman’s illustration work in Hunter S. Thompsons’ Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Feldman says–“I don’t know, some people look at a Rothko but I stood and looked at Steadman’s work and knew that I had to do art.”
Feldman also worked at the art supply store chain Pearl (also now defunct). “I had the best education. I learned all about the material, how to use them and everything.” Due diligence at the helm, Feldman grinds day after day, canvas after canvas, letting that guide his process. “I try to surprise myself. I always have 15 to 20 canvases at one time. Part of what’s so amazing to be in this position is you never know what painting will call out to you and need some attention.” Through that process, Feldman then forms a narrative around it and makes decisions on what to put together as a collection.
When approaching the pieces of a collection, Feldman treats each painting as a “journal of everyday living,” a space to mindfully allow reflections of daily life and natural curiosity. He uses it as a base that seeps and makes its way onto the canvas. “I sit down and pour layer upon layer, I’m inspired by everything in daily life. Even the person that cuts me off while driving on the road!”
Feldman has shown his work at many galleries and built a growing collector base from Los Angeles all the way back to Philadelphia. His collectors are so devout, they lovingly point out his insignia in all his paintings—his cat, Boy Boy—anytime they reach out. In his most recent pop-up in Culver City, his largest exhibition to date, Feldman utilized the quiet time that 2020 brought upon us to get closer to his emotions, review his values, and hone in on what’s most important to share. “I think Incomprehensible Remoralization was me dealing with loss. But also, dealing with the new world we all live in. Figuring out what’s what and what’s next.”
In the piece “Death Grip,” originally conceived in 2019 but then revisited, Feldman aims to talk about his own encounter with loss. Earlier in the year, he lost his mother to pancreatic cancer and then two cousins that were in the Surfside condominium collapse in Florida. He quite literally had to find a way to work through grief, learning how to cope and how to move forward as best he could. Then, in “Let Me Tell You About 2020,” he taps into the impending fallout from the pandemic and general chaos around the world. “We had it all. Pandemic, protests, food shortages—all in your face bright as life in neon color.”
In planning and prepping for the pop-up, Feldman painted the walls white of the vast warehouse space to accent the multiplicity and vibrancy of the colors in the work. Of these colors, orange seems to be his branded color, the direct influence of a scene in Godzilla turned figurine that “goes nuclear.” He also discovered that orange is the color of a creative chakra. An anxious but rewarding experience, Feldman recounts the return of in-person functions. “Lots of my friends and clients only see my paintings through social media. I wanted this exhibition to be more like a show and tell experience so they could really see what I do in person.”
The show was an overall success but Feldman asserted that he wasn’t super concerned about what the results were going to be. He simply desired to live presently in a moment meant to be shared. In an unprecedented time of uncertainty, Feldman’s work represents the glimmer of light in an otherwise dark place. Much like Feldman’s tenacious and instinctive ethos, we must remind ourselves to show up, do the work, and keep going.
To learn more about Joey Feldman, please visit his website here.
To view his NFT collection on OpenSea, please visit here. WM
Mariepet Mangosing is a bi-coastal writer and graphic designer from Jersey City. She has worked in brand packaging, web and print design for the past decade. Her feature length screenplay The Batholiths has been shortlisted in the Macro x Blacklist Feature Screenwriting Incubator program. In her work, she advocates mental wellness and accurate cultural representation in film, television and other media. She examines relationship dynamics through a first-generation immigrant lens. She has her BA in Visual Communications from Ramapo College of New Jersey and is an MFA candidate in Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University.
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