Joe Renda Finds Inspiration Through Contrast and How Opposites Attract

Introduce yourself

My name is Joe Renda, and I am a Chicago based artist. I am pursuing a BFA specializing in oil painting and expected to graduate from the American Academy of Art in April 2018. I have shown in multiple galleries around Chicago and gained gallery representation Vertical Gallery.

When did you first start getting involved with art?

My story is different than most artists I know. I wasn’t the artistic child who came out of the womb with a paintbrush in hand. I got into art my freshman year of high school when I took an art class to get an easy A (as many do), but surprisingly I ended up falling in love with creating. My art teachers at the time, Mr. Susin, and Mrs. Zelm saw something in me that I didn’t know was there, and pushed me to keep going. Looking back, there were a lot of connections that lead me toward an artistic path. I’m 22 years old now, and couldn’t be happier that art has completely engulfed my life. I hear all the time that people think that It is too late to start creating, but I feel my story proves the opposite.

Contrary ideas intrigue you. Ideas such as life and entropy, chaos and order, nature and mankind. How much do you think chaos has helped you creatively?

I am really inspired by contrast and how opposites attract. I noticed recently that my work contained some sort of contrast either visually or conceptually, and I decided to push these contrary ideas. I love the messy chaotic part of being an artist, for out of chaos comes inspiration. I took my first oil painting class in my sophomore year of college, and my first 20+ paintings were so bad. Since then my drive has always been figuring out the technical side of painting. The way I work is very controlled which craves order, so most of the time I am utilizing small brushes to create tiny details. I try to create a balance between control and chaos, through brush strokes, and chemicals, becoming a push and pull of paint and sensibility. In the end, it is all about experimentation. As artists, the only way to grow is to go outside of our comfort zone.

I always look to dive deep into the inspiration behind one’s artwork. One of the first pieces I saw from you was ‘Control is an Illusion’. Talk about this one.

This piece was part of my first body of work. This was before I was thinking about conceptual ideas, and just touching on what I was influenced by. I have always been interested in psychology and how we experience the world around us. Looking back at the piece, I have come a long way with my technical skills, but also how I think critically about my work. I am always curious as to how we view control in our lives. Are our lives completely controlled by us? do we have any control at all? I think at the time when I was putting this body of work together, I was really interested in this idea. I still play with the idea of control throughout my current body of work, and the role it played in our lives.


Next, Primary Vision.

Primary Vision was the first piece where I started to play with more chromatic colors. When I started oil painting 3 years ago, the pallet used was full of very traditional earth tones. I slowly moved away from that and toward a more chromatic color pallet. This piece was a part of that transition to how I am using color in paintings now. With how I utilized primary colors in the piece, it was a reference to going back to the basics and advance the viewers mindset. I use the eye as a motif often to symbolize humanity, all-seeing, and as a window into the psyche. People are always drawn to eyes, for they speak so much more then words could ever.


And last, Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.

My works on paper are a very new way of working for me. Separate from my main body of work, the works on paper take more of a journalistic approach. Usually, when I have an idea for a painting, I sketch it out, then build the panel, prime it, and wait for it to dry before I can start. With the paper works, when I have an idea, I can just get to work. Paper is a faster way for me to express my everyday inspirations with more spontaneity. I don’t really worry about all the detail, accuracy, or even content that I tackle within my main body of work. I just let inspiration take over and get to creating. Working this way usually inspires me for larger paintings. You will see small sections of these paper pieces transformed into my main body of work.

“Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit” are song lyrics I couldn’t get out of my head while listening to the band Twenty One Pilots. Recently I let my dog out at night and he chased a rabbit, scaring it to death. This was sad, but It made me think about how we view death, and how each person has a different outlook on it. In the middle left part of that piece I placed a multiple-choice A)Run B)Hide C)Freeze D)Fight and titled the piece “Run” to symbolize the experience that inspired me.

You’ve talked about how Synchronicity influences you. What is it about synchronicity?

The idea of synchronicity and the connection between all things Is very intriguing. I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe that everything happens for a reason and brings us to the next stage in our lives. I am not religious, but I do believe that there is some sort of guidance system that you can become aware of. I have had too many right places at the right time experiences to not think that it is connected in some way. A good example is that I just discovered your site recently, and was reading some of the interviews thinking to myself, “it would be great to be interviewed by Chicago Creatives” and here we are!

How did you develop your relationship with Vertical Gallery?

I started going to galleries as soon as I started college. I originally started school in the pursuit of an illustration degree, but fell in love with the fine art scene the more I visited galleries. The first show I went to at Vertical Gallery was their 12”x12” Holiday show a couple years ago. The work on display was something I hadn’t really seen before, and that’s when I started to really become immersed in the urban contemporary scene. I started going to every opening at Vertical which led to meeting people, and eventually the owner Patrick. I didn’t even know he was the owner until about the fourth time I talked to him.

Patrick contacted me one day, asking if I would be interested in assisting an artist on a mural project. Little did I know that artist would be Collin van der Sluijs, and the wall would be 9 stories. I had such an amazing experience working with Collin on the mural project, and it got my foot in the door. After that project, I deiced to curate a group show with a good friend and fellow Chicago artist, Sergio Farfan. The show was an enormous success, and this is where Patrick saw my first body of work. He really enjoyed my work and asked me to do a pop up with Collin and Chicago artist Lie, and then another pop up for the holiday show last December. Over the summer, I gained official representation from Vertical Gallery, and this December my work will be on the wall for the first time with artists I have looked up to from the beginning. It is pretty surreal, and I didn’t really expect to be where I am right now, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunities and friends I have made along the way.

December 1st, this Friday you have a piece you are showing in Vertical Gallery’s Portrait gallery show. What can we expect from this piece?

Vertical’s Portrait show is going to be insane! The artist line up is outstanding, and the work is just incredible. I am honored to be a part of the exhibit. Each artist created two 18”x24” portraits. My portraits touch on the ideas of mysticism, protection, natural power, contrast and nature combined with humanity. I am excited about the opening and hope that viewers can take away something from the work. See you there!