AJ Fosik moved to Portland about a year ago, but he's been too busy to leave his studio and enjoy all the things his new home has to offer. Fosik is no stranger to working at a breakneck pace, and when I was attempting to arrange a studio visit, the only time that worked for both of us happened to be on a Saturday morning. This was less than ideal as I was down in Portland on a blitzkrieg visit in which I was attempting to cram about three months worth of old friends and bourbon into five days, and Fosik had been out the night before celebrating the purchase of a new house. Upon arriving at his tucked-away studio in the industrial hills by Forest park, we were both relieved to discover that we were on the same page in that we were both feeling... uh... slightly less than articulate.
Fosik is an affable curmudgeon who has made a very deliberate decision to not engage the art world on its typical terms. He is first and foremost a craftsman, and he puts more stock in practice than theory. While there are telltale racks of spraypaint and scattered pieces of paper in Fosik's workspace, the studio is more woodshop than anything else, and he tells me that he is self-taught. "I'm probably a bad woodworker," he shrugs and jokes self-effacingly. "Anyone who does fine woodworking would look at these and be disgusted by them."
While it is true that Fosik isn't employing the use of dovetail joints, one cannot help but feel a deep respect for the craftsmanship that goes into the construction of his statuesque pieces. Fosik's sculptures are rich testaments to the power of his obsessive curiosity. Fiercely looming eyes and wide, howling jaws rest upon psychedelic waves of carefully overlapped wooden shingles, and rearing bodies stand in mid-lunge towards the viewer. With a color palette that shares more than a passing affinity with safety paint from a construction site, Fosik's creations are anything but subtle, and they demand the full attention and involved interaction of their audience. Many of Fosik's pieces are vaguely threatening, and his compositions feature larger-than-life animistic figures wielding guns and mallets, their limbs extended to rend and tear, gaping maws set to devour.
Fosik cultivated his building abilities in response to the fact that he was raised in a family with no interest in making things. "It's really weird," he says. "I have no artists in my family whatsoever... My dad can't even use a screwdriver. I was definitely one of those kids who took everything apart and destroyed everything I owned trying to figure out how it worked."
This sense of trial and error construction has clearly paid off. Fosik's pieces draw from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and he assimilates religious iconography that nods equally to Asian deities and African tribal patterns. Fosik explains he is intentionally going for this blended effect; having no religious background himself, he has always been curious about what he sees as the absurdity of religious zealotry. His goal is to reference a diverse range of religions without evoking any particular faith, and he delights in the subsequent interpretations his viewers insist upon. While he clearly puts a great deal of thought into his work, Fosik has a perverse, Gonzo
-esque refusal to talk about the ideas that inform his finished pieces. He instead prefers to discuss the religious, shamanistic overtones as part of a running joke he is playing on his viewers. "That's the whole point," he explains. "[Religion is] all a sham, but I'm being up front about it and putting it out on the table. I enjoy that aspect of it; it's the old switcheroo!"
ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW