The presence and value of simplicity in my upbringing has greatly inspired my practice, both conceptually and aesthetically. Raised in a Mennonite family, the idea of simplicity pervades all aspects of life, from the modest architecture of our churches to our cookbooks, which are titled More With Less and Simply in Season. One of the theological questions we ask ourselves is how can we be in the world, but not of the world? Mennonite families typically live humbly; homes are not embellished with art, excess, or worldly items, but are rather of modest design, in which form follows function. One of the ways to live simply is to not place too much emphasis on the endless pursuit of worldly success, popular culture, and social media. As a visual artist, I create work that reflects these values; it’s a rejection of the things that I believe complicate our lives.
In earlier work, I had been using the grid as a tool to layout my geometric drawings that were loosely based off of the quilts of Mennonite tradition. Through labor, my relationship with the grid eventually shifted from it being an instrument or tool to achieve a subject to it becoming the subject itself. The grid lends itself to simple patterns and progressions, creating logical drawings that have a sense coherency.
Jean-Paul Sartre defines praxis, the Greek word for doing or process, as a defined human activity and that Practico-inert is the unpredictable outcome of that activity. Unlike most of my drawings these grid drawings are unplanned. I don’t have an expectation as to how the drawings will be finished. The process allows for the outcome of the work to evolve. Practico-inert is realized after patterns emerge from a simple set of preset rules.
Joseph Shetler (born Goshen, Indiana) is an American post-minimalist artist. He approaches post-minimalism with a Mennonite lens, basing his aesthetic off of ana-baptist theology and simple way of life as well as art history. He was educated at Hesston College (A.A. 2004), Goshen College (B.A. 2006), and Arizona State University (M.F.A. 2014). Joseph has participated in residencies at Pyramid Atlantic, Ragdale, Anderson Ranch, and Vermont Studio Center. He lives in Washington, DC.