“Pain is the fuel for making my work,” Joshua explained to me. Unlike the emotional pain in the popular tortured-artist stereotype, the pain that Joshua is referring to is mostly a physical one. In many ways, art is how Joshua survives what life has challenged him with. And in other ways, many of us can relate to the ways that making art saves our lives.
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Here is Joshua’s artist story:
Joshua’s grandmother was a painter, and she used to teach him and his brothers to paint. As a child, he’d draw with his brothers often. Joshua’s definitive artist story begins tragically when he was 11 years old and was hit by a car. When this happened, he flatlined and was in a coma for 10 days. His recovery consisted of relearning how to walk, talk, and swallow. Despite this, he could still draw just as well as he could before the accident. This is when he realized what he had to be doing with his life — make art.
Because of that accident, over two decades ago, Joshua receives disability. He is still recovering and continues to grapple with chronic pain and social and emotional challenges. The money he receives from disability pays the bills, and since he is unable to work in the traditional sense, he chooses to spend his time making art. Art is not a source of income for Joshua. He barely makes $1,000 per year from art sales. Rather, it is a way for him to cope with health conditions.
Art as Therapy
Joshua copes with his pain by eating well and being as active as possible for someone with chronic pain. When he is not eating well or if he stays too sedentary, his pain worsens. He primarily copes with pain, however, by making art. “Pain is the fuel for making my work,” he explained. While he does have to take a lot of breaks while painting, he makes his work in order to block out a lot of the pain he feels and to help manage his other conditions. While his mind is focused on art making, it is less focused on what ails him.
It helps that Joshua comes from a caring and supportive family. His brothers have always been willing to have him live with them. Right now, he lives in his brother’s guest house. His rent there is only $300 per month. He couldn’t otherwise afford to live in the neighborhood he lives in, which is safe. His other housing options would be in neighborhoods not as safe, options artists have been known to take due to financial restraints. However, living under stressful conditions where personal safety is compromised would only serve to exacerbate Joshua’s health and mental health conditions. He tried it for a little while and it worsened his depression to live among “harsh people.” He was once accosted by “drunk frat boys” and almost assaulted, for example. For these reasons, he relies on the support of his family.
He is fortunate to have the opportunity to rent an affordable studio space at $150 per month at the Tuscon Sculpture Resource Center, especially when most of the others in town are $300-500 per month.
Joshua explained that there are a lot of opportunities to show art in Tucson. While bigger cities might have more art spaces, it is easier to connect with other artists and with gallery owners in Tuscon because it is smaller. Most recently, he landed the opportunity to show his work in Michoacan, Mexico through an artist friend is Tucson. This is a very exciting opportunity for him.
Despite the lasting effects of the accident that Joshua went through over two decades ago, he has found great healing in art making — a passion that never left him even when other abilities had. While he has been able to obtain support from his family and an affordable studio in a city with a thriving and friendly art community, his story reminds us that many artists live in places with “harsh people” that threaten one’s sense of safety and well being, and that the cost of studio rental poses its own financial challenges.
It was a pleasure speaking with Joshua and interviewing him to learn about his Artist Story. His optimism, talent, heart, and passion for the arts is truly inspiring.
More About Joshua
Joshua Woodhall, born in 1978, has been seriously oil painting for 20 years. At the age of 16 he won a Pennsylvania State art competition, but the painting was stolen while on display. By 18 years old, he moved back to Arizona, where he was born, and attended a community college and studied with Al Kogel. After making an animated film in 2005 and showing in the Arizona International Film Festival, Joshua moved to Germany where he painted and sold many paintings over a nine moth period. Joshua joined the Tucson Sculpture Resource Center in 2007 and has been making his ambition of finding the source of creativity, and making it clearly visible, a reality. In 2014, he showed in Michaocan, Mexico, in the show Utopia Illegal, Michaocanistan. To keep in touch with Joshua, friend him on Facebook: http://facebook.com/joshua.woodhall. To learn more about the Tuscon Sculpture Resource Center, Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sculpture-Resource-Center/359253220825834