Josh Faught's work has been seen in New York galleries, the Seattle Art Museum, and even on Grizzly Bear album covers, and now he's about to conquer San Francisco. In his studio above an antique prop shop, he creates traditionally crafted textile pieces interwoven with contemporary, domestic materials including nail polish, toilet paper, and potpourri. In that way, he cannot be pigeonholed as strictly a fiber artist. He's worked in other mediums including photography, and feels that his practice has just as much to do with textile history as it does with sculptural history. We caught up with him at his studio and discussed self-help books, domestic dysfunction, and his summer camp influences.
EKG: You were teaching at the University of Oregon for the last few years. What brought you to San Francisco?
Josh Faught: "I got a full-time job teaching at CCA. It's been amazing working in the textiles program. The Bay Area, and particularly CCA, has a rich history surrounding crafts and textiles. There's a lineage and legacy of which it's exciting to play a part. On a conceptual level, there's a relationship between the nostalgia of craft and the nostalgia of the gay community that's waxing or waning, depending on how you think about it."
Is fiber your preferred medium, or is it the material that happens to best fit your content?
"I would say it's the medium that fits my content best because that's how I got to textiles in the first place, but I think textiles have suited my content for a really long time. I studied art history and English in college, and it wasn't until after I left school that I started thinking about textiles as a viable material to produce artwork in. In order to do that, I had to channel the summer camp spirit and think about what it means to use those materials in the first place. I started working for Nest Magazine, which no longer exists. It was a conceptual interiors magazine that was profoundly inspirational. I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology for a little while because I thought I would do textile design, but I ended up going to grad school at The Art Institute of Chicago. I began doing research about highly politicized textiles from the '60s and '70s, and thinking about the fiber works that were being produced in the Bay Area. There was this heyday during the queer liberation and feminist movements that was being parlayed through the materials of textiles. So they became synonymous forces in a way."
Did you grow up around crafters?
"I have a grandmother who is a big knitter and my great grandmother crocheted, but I learned most of my craft skills from summer camp. I learned how to weave before I learned how to draw."
What are some of the most common themes in your work?
"Support is one of them, or a lack of support -- historical fantasy, suburban menaces, or depression in some way. Indigo has become a part of it, so maybe textile history, if that can be considered a theme. And domestic dysfunction -- a lot of artists are interested in domesticity but, for me, it's a magical space where things can be equally disarming and dysfunctional. The emergence of a new identity can happen. It can be celebratory and liberating at the same time."
Tell us about your self-help references. Some of your earlier pieces had actual self-help books and flyers woven into them.
"I'm always interested in support systems whether there's a physical support, like a trellis, or a newsletter as a support, or a book as a support. I don't want to be over-the-top literal with the supports, but I like the idea of them bouncing off each other. Sometimes it's structural or physical, and sometimes it's just embedded in the work. "
"I lived in Eugene, Oregon where there's a culture that's fascinated with self-help. A lot of anarchists live there and other people who want to disconnect. So there are a lot of bulletin boards with flyers advertising self-help things, and that's how it became a part of my work when I lived there. Now I'm trying to think about issues of support in different ways."
You mix traditional methods with contemporary elements and finishing. What do you like about that juxtaposition?
"I often use a more raw or expressive finishing, but at the same time I've been working with these materials long enough to know at what point it's going to fall apart. It isn't so much about being ephemeral as it is about being expressive and quoting the vernacular of earlier textile forms that I've been fascinated with. Like Annie Albers said, we should let threads be articulate and not be things that we merely walk on for utilitarian purposes. I want things to be playful and lively and to have a kind of psychic energy to them in some ways, so I move back and forth in terms of how I work on them."
If your art had a soundtrack, what would it be?
"I think my work would exist alongside a soundtrack inspired by Diana Ross and The Indigo Girls."
Josh Faught's work is included in a soon-to-be-released anthology, Extraordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art.