The Art Is Waiting: Joe Sorren’s New Series “When the Rain Comes”
Joe Sorren’s paintings remind me of the sweetness of the simple moments in life, like a flower covered in dew sparkling in the sun or a child quietly playing in a garden. We have to intentionally stop being mentally absorbed in the incessant activities of our lives, to mindfully notice these sweet and movingly beautiful moments happening before our eyes everyday. Going to see Sorren’s paintings on display feels like this. Like a visit to a park just to lay down on the grass and stare at the sky, viewing Sorren’s works feels refreshing and so universally human.
Sorren has painted a meditative series about the very universal theme of recovering from loss called “When the Rain Comes.” This new series is currently on display at the La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles until April 29. Recently, I had the privilege of speaking candidly with Sorren about the work before he installed the show. Sorren described this show as a bittersweet one, because much of the work stemmed from personal losses which have made him more deeply appreciate relationships in the present. Though the show has a feeling of melancholy, Sorren described the work as a personal “rebirth” through the process of painting them.
Sorren is an infectiously enthusiastic and optimistic soul, who has truly found his calling in life. Sorren describes his painting career as something he “does not take for granted” and that he knows only one certainty: “I’ll die before I quit.” I have had the privilege of knowing Joe for a few years now, as both a stunningly gifted visual artist and joyful musician who plays bass with the Voluntary String Band. Every time I get a chance to speak with Joe, I always find myself inspired and feeling more open-hearted. Though his optimism is what you first notice when you meet him, I have discovered a depth of feeling- which includes pain- underneath his surface. Sorren’s paintings are just the same: upon first glance you see a heart-warming creature which appears joyful, innocent, nostalgic, and sweet, but if you look deeper you also discover the pain, loss, and loneliness of human experience.
Sorren elaborated upon the many layers of his work, saying “if people want to go deeper (into my paintings), I’m trying to give (them) levels that they can choose to go to.” Sorren concluded: “When they are ready, the art is waiting.” Sorren’s main desire with his exhibits is to create “a safe place to meditate” on what the paintings mean to you as a viewer. The exhibit “When the Rain Comes” embodies this perhaps more than any other Sorren show because of the unified theme of loss throughout the pieces. This exhibit feels like a place to meditate and feel your honest truth, whatever it may be. Sorren says he creates his work from “a place of honesty” and I have observed that this creates a deep level of vulnerability in his work. Out of all the art I have seen over the years, I feel Sorren’s honest vulnerability more palpably than in any other artist’s work. This inspires me as a viewer to be able to more vulnerably feel whatever personal truth the art work triggers in me as a result.
Sorren might be painting in the same vein as Odilon Redon’s late 19th-century Symbolism, but the humanity I feel in his work aligns him with the quiet grief you can see in the Virgin Mother’s face in Michelangelo’s Pieta or the expressive and reverent contour lines of the bison on the walls of the Caves of Lascaux. Sorren’s paintings- like all the most empathic work in the history of art- remind us as viewers what is universally human: loss, pain, beauty, joy, and love. Sorren’s work reminds me to love and care for my own human-ness like one would a child or perhaps one of Sorren’s sweet creatures in his paintings.
It could be so easy in our busy lives to miss this art show, just like we could forget to look up at the beautiful sky overhead during our daily commutes. But don’t miss either, because these are the moments that make life richer and more meaningful.