Colorado Mural and Collage Artist Joshua Soto on Moving Home & Tearing Art Up
I met multi-faceted artist Joshua Soto for the first time probably 15 years ago, if memory serves me right. He and I were both congregating with other socially awkward miscreants at various punk rock and hardcore shows in Pueblo, both as fans and participants. His former band, RUNSFASTERSCARED, was the background music for many a house show/party and DIY space in the early 2000s. Chaotic and dissonant, RFS was and is still part of the soundtrack to my teenage years. Even then, Josh was always painting and creating, legal and illegal.
The collages of Joshua Soto are reminiscent of his musical background. Colors and patterns clash with a jagged and animalistic ferocity, angrily competing for space on the working surface. The imagery, while largely abstract in nature, oozes with commentary on media and it’s objectification of women, while still exploring the beauty of them. They are truly a sight to behold.
I spoke with Josh at his home in Pueblo’s Mesa Junction shortly after his move back to town from Denver.
How does it feel living in Pueblo again?
It’s nice. It’s real chill, and community oriented. And it’s very inspiring here right now. Since I’ve gotten back into town, I’ve noticed there’s been a lot more happening in the art community. I love hearing about (Mathew) Refic, or the (Desert Plains) Mural Festival, or Neon Animals. It’s all just happening right now. All of those guys push me to keep going. It’s great to be back here, and to be back around friends. In Denver, if you’re not in with the right crowds, it can be hard. And kind of alienating.
Denver wasn’t very receptive as a scene?
It’s just different, I guess. It’s like graffiti scene; It’s hard to get your name out unless you’re already in a crew. But in Pueblo, it seems like most everyone is on the same page, or it feels like it, anyway. We’re all just working to do more things and get bigger and be respected. There’s some crazy stuff happening. I think it’s something positive for Pueblo. Hopefully it’ll draw out all the negativity that gets put on us. But right now, people are stoked! My own family knew who REFIC was without me having to say anything!
So what is an average workflow for you?
I get up, make coffee, play with my son, and when he starts passing out, I get to work. I start tearing. But it’s so weird. I can’t really answer that. I never went to an art school, you know? I never went to college. All I’ve done for so long was write graft and play in bands. I just do what feels right, you know?
What do you like about collage more than other arts?
I like the rigid lines, and the harsh connections, and how it’s very free form. It’s stress relief. Kind of like therapy to me.
What do you think of people who say collage isn’t “real” art?
I mean, I get it. It’s not like you created the original image. I’m just tearing it out of a magazine. But you’re taking those pieces and turning it into something you’ve created, whether they see it that way or not. It’s definitely something that’s been popping up more. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and it’s awesome to see so many younger artists are getting into it. You see them in magazines a lot right now. There having workshops in big cities all about the art of collage. I think it’s art. (laughs)
Do you feel like graffiti informed or helped in your creation of collage art?
No. Actually, when I first got into collage, it was as an escape from graffiti, kind of. Like an artistic escape. I still love to paint, but lately I’d rather be doing this. It’s more meditation. I hardly ever use scissors at all, and I rarely ever use an X-acto knife. I do a lot of paper tearing, and just staring at these pieces until they make sense. Graffiti is always a part of me, but I feel like now I’d rather be pushing this further, and having art shows. It’s nice that people can come and look at this, and I can talk with them about this without being afraid of them finding out who I really am.
A lot of your collages feature women and female forms and Sacred Geometry. Is there a reason for all that?
Before I met (fiancée) Alex, I was with a girl who was crazy about witchcraft. And I feel like she definitely got me into that. Into the darker sides of things. A lot of my first stuff is occult based, and with rituals. But with the women, I use newer fashion magazines from like 2014-2015, but I love to find old ads from like the 50’s and 60’s. Stuff I find in antique malls that’s just sitting around. Women are always told to act or be a certain way in these things, so I take these ads, tear them up and f— with ‘em.
But with these newer pieces, I wanted them to be more thought out. After living in Denver so long, I wanted to recreate the walls that get buffed out all over Denver. The city buffs over these (graffiti) pieces, and leave them kind of a mess, but it’s so beautiful still. I wanna take that mistake that they make, and turn it into more of an abstract style. It’s like a play on it. Like telling the city “Well you can do that, but I’m just gonna do this. Can’t catch me.” I guess I’ll always kind of be a kid in that way.
Joshua’s collage work and other works can be found on his Instagram page: at @joshuasotoart.