Commissioned by the SOIL Gallery for the Member’s Catalog, 2011.

Joey Veltkamp

Enthusiasm hasn’t been cool since ancient Greek times, when to be an enthusiast meant you were possessed by a god. Even then maybe it wasn’t so great. You might find yourself wine-stained and naked, dancing down the colonnade in the middle of the night. Flirting with disaster, however, is what makes Joey’s work so good. It courts embarrassment, reaching out with a fervor which continuously threatens to overflow propriety. When we think of an enthusiast these days, we think of someone who “loves too much”, or who refuses to “face up to reality.” However, enthusiasts like Joey (like me!) know that enthusiasm is really pragmatic and ethical. It comes from trying to reconcile what is inside with what is outside, in a manner that brings the most good into the world. This is the spirit infusing all of Joey’s work. Joy—honest, true, hard-won, industrial-strength joy, like you see in the paintings here—is, unmistakably, transfigured melancholy. This is what rainbows symbolize: the distance between disappointment and forgiveness, God’s measure of both human and divine folly. Non-human animals are untroubled by shame, doubt, or melancholy. If only we were more like them. But also, how great is it that we are not? Joey’s horses, bears, and owls exist in this in between place, the passage between “animal” and “human”. Enthusiasm travels this distance, originating in that deep, dark, opaque place, the place which is most essentially “you” but which you will never know, and so is the source of all you desire. Shoshana Felman once wrote, “Inescapably, enthusiasm is what passes; it is, therefore nothing: nothing, in any case, other than what is doomed—like us—to pass.” This is what Joey is up to. Enthusiasm, propelled by desire, alloyed with all that passes, is the strongest stuff.

—Matthew Offenbacher


Joey Veltkamp: This ain't my first rodeo, fellas, oil on canvas, 48 x 48", 2011.