ACT ONE, SCENE ONE: YOUR CARE
If You Need Me, detail, 2015-2016. Ink and white-out correction tape on cold-press watercolor paper, 9 by 12 inches, 12 out of a series of 40. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist.
In his If You Need Me series, artist Joshua Rains illustrates the posts of a Facebook friend—Joshua Bley—that appeared in his newsfeed. In these posts, Bley publicly shared his horrific experience with sexual assault. Rains—who is Native—draws careful attention to the way that Bley’s mode of healing from this event appropriates indigenous culture and new age spirituality, as the appearance of the Native man, crystal necklace, and document titled “The Heart of the Lost Traditions” attests. Showing how one’s culture can be used by and for the benefit of another, Rains demonstrates how one’s very identity can be made into someone else’s symbol of healing.
Joshua Rains’ work explores the landscape of queerness through a visual language that utilizes object-based performance, sculpture, installation, and conceptual drawing to lay bare the beautiful and pleasurable, but often humiliating and painful textures of queer sexuality. Originally from the plains of Oklahoma, Josh uses his experience growing up in conservative, small-town America as both gay and working class to critique the idea of masculinity and its relationship to queerness and the queer body.
His sculptural and performance practice often utilizes thrift store purchases, stolen trinkets from sexual encounters, bodily fluids, and other everyday materials to expose the complex aesthetics of queer masculinity. In conceptual drawings, he draws upon a visual language created as a child, which mixes found imagery, fantasy, landscape, disease, mortality, sex, and violence. These works experiment with queer place-making beyond the stultifying and limited landscapes of both heteronormativity and homonormativity. His work commonly centers the theme of anality. Where anal sex is historically associated with death and destruction, his body of work emphasizes the rich, generative powers of anality and the space-making possibilities of queer sexualities.