artist photo for Josh Handler

Josh Handler

Josh has been creating paintings and digital art since the Arts Access Program’s beginning in 1993. He tries to make his visual art “unique and interesting. Some people think I’m mysterious,” he says, “because my art is unique for what I do.” For example, “Fruit Salad”, a digital painting of his that’s printed on a mug, “doesn’t really look like fruit salad,” but it depicts several different colored objects in various shapes and sizes. Another digital art piece, “Flying High”, also portrays several different colored objects — some resembling parachutes — falling through the air.

Both pieces, according to Arts Access Facilitator Keith Garletts are consistent with Josh’s artistic philosophy. “He goes to great lengths to ensure that his squares don’t look like typical squares,” Garletts says, “and his triangles aren’t your usual triangles. He likes to leave a bit of mystery for his fans in his work. He wants the viewer to leave his work with one question: ‘What was he thinking?'”

Sometimes Josh paints by using his hands. Other times, he utilizes the Arts Access painting process, directing facilitators as to which colors, shapes, and other elements he would like to use. Proud of the fact that he has been “a pioneer of the program since it started,” he remembers that he was skeptical at first. “I thought, ‘This is a joke.’ Once they introduced it to me, though, it broadened my horizons. As the years went on, I got more confident. I love doing it. It makes me feel good.” His art has been exhibited at several venues outside Matheny such as the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ; the Wharton, NJ, Public Library; and the Visiting Nurse Association of the Somerset Hills in Basking Ridge, NJ.

In 2014, Josh expanded his talents into the world of dance, choreographing a dance piece to the music of Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes”. It was performed in 2019 at the Arts Access Full Circle celebration by three female dancers, one of whom was in a wheelchair. According to Heather Williams, Arts Access Performing Arts Coordinator, Josh “uses big sweeping patterns and intricate arm movements. He is very musical.”

Josh describes it this way: “I wanted to give the song a new spin. There’s a lot of movement in it, but it has nothing to do with Debbie’s music video of the song. This is my dance to her music. I’ve had it in my head for a long time that I wanted to do this.” The song was written in 1987 when Gibson was 17 years old, and the song’s lyrics describe a first adolescent love. To Josh, though, the song “shows a lot of caring, that it doesn’t matter if you’re different, you’re still great.”

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