Joshua Katcher’s sculptures deal with a dichotomy in human nature. On one hand there is the desire to unite with the natural environment. On the other hand there is the desire to dominate, control, and subdue nature. Because many people see the human race and civilization itself as something that is not natural, or countering and destroying what is “natural”, many of us find ourselves in an awkward position. We need the natural environment to survive, yet we foster activities that destroy our very source of life, and in essence, ourselves.
His most recent piece, “The Beast” is his most direct assault on some of the cherished and unquestioned values associated with our modern culture. On one side – the sleeping side – there is “Economic Growth” and “Progress Forever”, two powerful and permeating cultural ideas that most mainstream economists prop our economy up on. But Katcher asks, what is economic growth when not an abstract idea? When we look deeper, it’s the extraction of natural resources. The devastation of ecosystems, and the devastation of our own sources of life. On the other side of the beast, the waking side – there is the terror we inflict upon other animals. This addresses the emotional and psychological side of our lives.
Katcher utilizes anthropomorphism in much of his work – either to allow non-humans the ability to tell a story, or to directly show an intrinsic and inseparable connectedness to the non-human world. An upright animal delivers a more well-received and valid message because we as humans have a prejudice against those on all fours, or those who are rooted. In the pieces “The Golden Hooves” and “Tree People” we might see what’s it like to be in their shoes, on all fours or in a tree.
The equation of our relationship to the Earth becomes more complex. An additional characteristic is the ability for nature to destroy us, as symbolized in the piece “Prometheus”. Prometheanism is an ideology that opposes environmentalism. While environmentalism lends itself to the fact that that there is a limit to the earth’s ability to support human life, prometheanism professes that human ingenuity can overcome any obstacle. In Greek mythology, Prometheus became a hero by stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to humankind. In my sculpture, I remind the Promethean that we are animals, bound by our relationship to nature. We return to the dirt and we are not gods.
Some would say that it is human nature to have an insatiable appetite for resources. As a culture, we never seem to have enough, and we are consuming ourselves to death. The appearance of teeth – too many teeth, messed up teeth, huge teeth, in Katcher’s work symbolizes this destructive appetite. In the pieces “Greed”, “the Hungry Mr. Teeth” , “Patriotism” and “Nightmare”, these teeth are too large, too disfigured to use, or are too many that the user would choke.
Many historians and philosophers believe that civilization can be attributed to patriarchy. In the pieces “Woodie”, “The Architect” and “Flesh”, the phallic appearance of the figures can be connected to this idea. Katcher believes that the expressions on the faces of the figures ride a fine line between ecstasy and death, celebrating the luxuries associated with the domination of nature, and slowly dying as a result of its consequences.