My practice is a philosophy based on three principles: beauty, poetry, and abolitionism. With this, I aim to form constructive behaviours that inform eternal cultural revolution while simultaneously preserving traditional practices. Impressions of flowing water, or "the river of life", are my Dao; Yet as Lao Tsu wrote, "the Dao that can be named is not the eternal Dao".
My first principle is that of beauty. I consider that if artists create work that aims for the true, eternal, sublime, sacred, divine, or poetic, we push life towards a harmonious reality. Between those extremes lies a banality and serenity which is also beautiful. As a result of this work, the experience of consciousness may even become less anxious and neurotic for those who interact with the work. Fellow artist Pierre Liebaert summarized this idea well when we told me that he and I work "in service of the divine."
Poetry is the second principle—that is: spatial, visual, textural, and linguistic poetry rooted in primitive beauty—in simple terms: nature. I'm exploring this in my collaboration with, and love of, Yin Xiao. Another work-in-progress which employs this and the previous principle is my project "Dao 25:25." Both sacred, grotesque, and poetic, I vandalize bibles with my handwritten words. I also harness this principle through the practice of building and repairing garments. Lastly, with the abolitionist principle, my convictions are that we must stop all forms of self-inflicted ecological destruction, imperialism, colonialism, war, weapons manufacturing, fanaticism, mass incarceration, austerity politics, oppression, performative humanitarianism, hierarchical business practices, borders, capitalist celebrity-icon culture, obscene wealth gaps, and most of all, greed. It would seem that the only means of a successful abolitionist is to positively change one's behaviour while, as a side effect, influencing others to do the same. As Octavia Butler wrote, "prodigy is, at its essence, persistent, positive obsession."
In the end, I wonder if we would then spend our lives debating metaphysical ideas, cultivating nature, and discussing how best to utilize all of the time we gained once our senseless disaster-politics had ended. Although idealistic, I envision the possibility of a world without poverty, hatred, despair, and violence that still allows for the generative autonomy of the individual. As an aside, I know that we can not, nor ever could, end suffering.
In straddling these three principles, I have made my life very difficult, but I enjoy immensely this struggle.
For collaborations, brief or winded, I have included these notes on my process. Most projects, from conception to delivery, require a minimum of two months. During this time, I prefer very high levels of communication. You can expect to spend at least two weeks in research and ideation. When necessary, we should build small, close-knit teams.
I'm also very interested in your method of delivery, and would be happy to strategize your plans for deliverables outcome (print campaign, magazines, posters, special events, etcetera). Knowing about your desired outcome can also inform the direction of my work.
Creating images is a very emotionally involved experience for me. Before I can even consider a project, we must find a harmony between our vision, identity, and philosophy. So, as a rule of thumb, we must first take extended conversations to discuss your vision and purpose. From there, we can shape a story, time, place, atmosphere and essence. Most shoots will take place over several days with a handful of various scenarios in which to photograph our subjects. Our shoots will consist of long hours spent together with the cast and crew moving about through the world. My Ricoh pocket camera is always with me during these times, and rather than attempt to force an image, I capture photos as they appear to me.
Our goal in these moments should be to forget that we are "on set."
Design is a much less involved process for me emotionally, but rather mechanical. Any design project—be it web, UX, print, spatial, object—will require at least one month of research and development. Execution times vary depending on deliverables. As always, we should begin these projects with several conversations.
I am a product of the Gulf South, United States and of South Texas. This coastal region, its thunderous rain storms, and its history with my Mexican and Afro ancestors, if anything, is my greatest influence in life. My parents, in their early years, built a home of creative freedom. For that, I am lucky. We had a modest life throughout my childhood with much laughter, music, art, and culture. The financial crisis in 2008 set in motion two years of displacement in which my family became nomadic. Although hard times in present, it all seems gorgeous in hindsight.
My parents, to no great fault of their own, upheld a strict Christian ideology that kept our family charged with philosophical debate and psychological estrangement. The first time suicidal desires crept into my mind, I was 13 years old sat in Church. That thought would fester into a deep depression to last me a decade. I share this with you only because consciousness and death play crucial roles in my practice and life. Learning about Chinese philosophy in Daoism, with some credit due to Japanese Zen, is what pulled me up from that great cavern of darkness. Dao is what I seek to create in all of my work now. At age 19, in a fit of fury, I left my parents home for Los Angeles. What preceded was four tattered years of hard living and self-discovery. A brief romance would then lead me to Berlin, where I'd spend nearly a year coming down from my California trip. In the streets of Berlin is where I'd also meet Yin Xiao.
At the beginning of 2019, I returned to my fatherland in Texas. I started college for art and further explored my interests in psychology, philosophy, and writing. Keeping in contact with Yin Xiao, we began to realize a marriage of minds. After nearly three years of video calls, we've decided to move forward together in life. On September 3rd, I boarded a flight for Lisbon where he was currently stationed. Now, as I attempt to immigrate into Portugal, my practice evolves into a new stage of maturity. From here, I will expound on my craft in photography, poetry, and design.
b. 1996. Texas, USA
General Education, Homeschool, Houston
AFA Texas, Chamber Music, Houston
Apprentice, Genesis Photographers, Houston
Photographer, H. Lorenzo, Los Angeles
Photographer, Art Director, cyberlarge.com
Die Deutschule, German Studies, Berlin
Houston Community College, Associate of Arts
Studio, Business of Art Amplifier Workshop, Online
"Carriers: The Body as a Site of Danger and Desire," Blaffer Museum, Houston
"9" CivicTV, FotoFest Biennial, Sawyer Yards, Houston
"In Review: Everyone at Blaffer," Blaffer Museum, Houston
"Body A," Flats, Houston
"Labyrinth of Language," Werkartz, Los Angeles
"There Is Enough For Everyone," Knockout Factory Warehouse, Houston
Sunny Art Prize Shortlist, Sunny Art Centre, London
Bill Arning Contemporary, Houston, Texas
Private Collections: USA, Germany, Belgium, Colombia, Portugal
"Everyone at Blaffer," Blaffer Museum, Houston
"There Is Enough For Everyone," Houston
"Define Nomadic Space: Arts Organizing, Pandemic, and Virtual Experience."
Hosted by Common Field
"The Sexuality Question," Hosted by Ryan Holloway and Open MFA.
Interview by DJ Kool Emdee, Afrotronik Radio, KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston
Arning, Bill. “Embracing Intergenerational Love” OutSmart Magazine, September 2020, p. 56-58
Anaïs Viand, et al. “Fish Eye Photo Review 2020-21,” Fish Eye Magazine, 2020, p. 99
Di Lescia, Valentina. “Live Blogging Discussions on Nomadic Arts Organizing and
How to Address Trauma,” Hyperallergic, 2020, online.
Johnson, Peter. “A book of stories” Captured 52, Season 5 Catalog, 2020.
Olson MD, Loren. “Age Differences in Gay Couples,” Psychology Today, 2020, digital.
Peña, Sol. “There is Enough for Everyone, Second Ward Art Show”, Byline Houston, 2019, digital.
Tsatsas, Lou “Éloge du corps humain”, Fisheye Magazine, 2019, digital.
Flanagan, Rosie. “J. A. Bilhan’s Personal Search For Beauty And The Sublime,” Ignant, 2019, digital.
Glenn, Hannah. Interview, Coeval Magazine, Digital, 2018
Eshelman, Jake. “Manual,” Side Project Skateboards, 1st Edition, 2018, p. 96-106.
Behroozian, Chris. Interview, “God is Gay” Volume 03, 2018
Art Review Magazine, Cover Photograph, Issue May 2017
Jager, Shannon. Double Dot Magazine. Volume 08, 2018, p. 54-67
Lee, Clara. “Dizziness of Youth”, Staple Magazine, Issue 01, 2016, cover & p. 114-133
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