We had the good fortune of connecting with Josh Katz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josh, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
I think about this question all the time. As I grow I’m constantly reasking and reevaluating my vision. However, my dream right now is to continue developing as a mural artist. I want to be able to paint large-scale, multistory, photorealistic but funky murals that are overtly Queer and that will increase representation for the LGBTQ community in street art. I hope to build an extensive portfolio of these murals in cities around the world.
Also, I live in The Bay Area and I can’t seem to find many Queer mural or street artists who want to paint walls here. I want to start throwing events, getting folks together to spray paint and make art. It’s a huge dream of mine to build a community of Queer street artists who can inspire and support each other.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I moved to The Bay Area at the age of fourteen, I had never seen a place covered in so much graffiti and street art. This was back before gentrification had really infiltrated. There were legendary pieces on walls in every city across The Bay. I quickly became obsessed and started learning to spray paint. I experimented with a number of different styles in my earlier years. However, as I grew older I found myself wanting to use art as a vehicle to explore and express my Queerness. Through this exploration I was able to find a new sense of purpose and meaning in my practice. I felt energized to create. I began learning about Queer history, including the resilience Queer people have generated to overcome trauma in our fights for equality. I was moved by these stories and wanted to incorporate that inspiration into my work. Simultaneously, I searched the world of street art and was disappointed when I perceived a real lack of LGBTQ representation. I felt motivated to learn to paint large murals which might reflect the power and beauty of Queer people. I hoped that in doing so I could build more bridges between the Queer community and the world of street art, both of which I loved so deeply.
I am proud to say that over the past year and a half I have seen my work improve dramatically. I have taught myself to render faces and flowers in spray paint as large-scale public murals. Many of my murals have been portraits dedicated to Queer activists and artist whose stories inspire me. By painting them on city walls I hope to both honor their legacies while also increasing visibility for them.
Learning to paint murals over the last year I have encountered many obstacles. I think the most significant challenge has been finding a way to maintain momentum and continue creating work. Many of my first pieces were painted for free as a way for me to build my portfolio and gain experience. Even working for free, it was incredibly difficult to find locations to create murals. It can be worrying at times because as artists we devote our lives to our crafts at the expense of other opportunities. We don’t have the same sort of safety nets and stability inherent to other lifestyles. We often feel as though we need to constantly be hustling and generating opportunity to sustain ourselves. At times we can feel exhausted.
One thing I have learned though is that it really takes years of persistence to begin to build a dream. I believe that if we can stay in love with our crafts, stay focused, and continuously take steps towards our goals, then we become unstoppable. For me, I feel like I am only just getting started. I’m so excited to keep pushing my art, connecting and exchanging energy with new folks, and to continue cranking out some big gay murals, hopefully in your city soon!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If you’re coming to Oakland definitely stop by Lake Merritt, especially on Friday nights when they have roller skating party and fire spinning jams. It’s hella cute. For snacks in Oakland check out Gay4U Vegan Eats open weekends, any taco truck out in East Oakland, Downtown Oakland, Jack London has some tasty spots too that are a little bougie but if you have the coins then splurge queen! For drinks check out Van Kleefe downtown and order a greyhound, or 7th West community bar out in West Oakland. I also highly recommend just exploring, busting a hike in the hills, Albany Bulb is a nice hiking spot too.
On your way to the city stop by Treasure Island and explore around, there are some gems out there. Once in San Francisco go check out Oasis drag nightclub. They slay! If you want gay bars I would check out Hole in the Wall, Lonestar, The Eagle, also The Castro can be fun although on a Friday she gets a little rowdy. There are a lot of fun parties but it really depends what weekend you’re in town. The Bay has a bunch of great venues but they host a range of shows so depending on your scene see what’s happening when you’re in town. I hope you have all the fun!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Aw man, I have so many people I’d like to shoutout and thank. First off, thanks so much to Oasis in San Francisco and D’Arcy Drollinger for allowing me to paint my most recent mural dedicated to the San Francisco disco legend, Sylvester. Thanks so much to 333Arts, Transmission Gallery, 7th West, and all the other folks who provided me with a much needed spot to make my murals this past year. Most of all, thanks to my sister Anna for always being in my corner and helping me navigate this wild old life, and to my friend Grey Dey, an amazing artist who has been an incredible mentor to me as I continue trying to make this art thang work. Much love!