Manufacturers Village Artist Studios, located in an 1880’s historic industrial complex at 356 Glenwood Avenue in East Orange, NJ, will feature the work of over 60 different artists at its annual open studios weekend, Friday 10/15 (VIP Preview) and Saturday thru Sunday from 11-5, 10/16 and 10/17.
Josh Stout is a biologist, and began carving jade as a way to express the beauty of forms in nature. Before becoming a scientist, he studied philosophy, where he learned to seek the essential characters of things. He teaches biology, focusing on the diversity of the natural world. His artwork unites these domains. He is self-taught, and collects stone carvings of ancient civilizations.
Tell me about yourself and your art.
Beginning with small pieces, I have studied the interplay of cause and effect between the object I carve, and the idea I am trying to convey. As I have gained experience, I have moved to more powerful tools and larger pieces of jade. The most durable of stones, jade cannot be worked with a chisel, but must be laboriously ground to shape and polish. I look for expressions of flow and form in mythology and the natural world, and find inspiration in the carvings of prior civilizations. I take comfort knowing that what seems like a never-ending existential crisis for our world is but a moment in the flow of history, and that my work will transcend the tumult of today.
What will we see in your studio?
I share my studio with my wife, Wendy Bellermann, who works with acrylics and oils to paint bold figurative images and portraits. These paintings and my industrial grinding equipment dominate the room at first glance, but on closer inspection, the smaller bright jades catch the eye. I will have on display carvings from the last six years of work, from pocket size pieces to larger carvings that need two hands to hold. I will also display some of the Pre-Columbian carvings that provide me with inspiration.
Jade feels delicious in the hand, and this will be a rare opportunity for guests to handle substantial pieces. I will also have a few pendants available for sale. I carve these as a courtesy for those who love jade so much that they need to wear a piece of it. My carvings include fish, frogs, snakes, shells, and swans. Jade lends itself to watery flowing forms such as these. I also like to explore the circular advance and return of spirals. The flowing spiral is a common motif in the ancient world with connotations to the Jungian labyrinth of the unconscious, and the cyclic but advancing nature of history, as described by Ibn Khaldun. My carvings explore how forms in the natural world incorporate and convey ideas that can transcend civilizations.