RAA Arist Profile
Josie Osborne – Curated Worlds
by Elizabeth Vogt
photo by John Ruebartsch
Josie Osborne creates dioramas for the mind.
Diorama: from the Greek di (through) and orama (a sight to be seen): a model we look into, often in three-dimensional miniature form, of an event or a location; a construction that references the outside world. Josie’s recent show at the Walker’s Point Center for Arts; Wonders, offered a safari through such small worlds. The delicate, deliberate assemblages had us gazing into realms of meaning while obliged to make our own connections with the larger reality.
Her vocabulary is delicate and precise. An outlined bird stops, frozen, before a backdrop of yellowed sheet music. A small metal bar with a loaded spring is suspended, piercing the space. A floating wishbone exudes desire and longing. Weathered wooden boxes form a stage; a diagram of human lungs, a backdrop. As with poems, these require repeated readings and offer no prescribed meanings. Osborne invites us to create our own narratives, explore our own lexicons of experience. Is the bird an ephemeral soul, visiting a past love? Is that an alarm looming, waiting to explode? It’s as enchanting as it is challenging. Calling it “assembling a feeling”; she presents views “not of this world, but referencing it.”
Josie gathered her references along a carefully navigated path. Born in Fairbanks, Alaska, to an architect father and teacher/painter mother, she and her four siblings were taught to observe and analyze (“Look at that building. What can you say about those windows?”). Her parents and the Alaskan community were all about the energies of the self-reliant. They were also Christian Scientists, focusing on the spiritual life beyond the physical world (Remember the bird, the music?).
The family moved to Wisconsin when Josie was 5; to Mequon and, seeking rural edges, then Dousman. Of five children, saturated in country living and their parents’ focused creativity, only Josie went into the arts.
Starting at UW-Madison at age 17, rebellion and curiosity prompted Josie after two years to take a break and return to the northern world of Alaska. She studied, waited tables, and made new artist friends. Returning to Wisconsin, UW-Milwaukee seemed just right for finishing her BFA. Adventures in printmaking, travel, and Miami followed, then a higher degree beckoned.Of graduate schools across the country, UW-Madison brought her to Wisconsin with the best offer. Then MIAD offered her a position developing Outreach programs and teaching. While artist friends made quality-of-life sacrifices to work in NYC, Josie saw great potential in Milwaukee as a home base.
She’s been a force in Milwaukee arts ever since. Now at UWM, Josie is directing the Art and Design First Year Programs and teaching. She’s passionate about history and context, how our realities grow on strata of centuries. Art also offers an antidote to the troubles of our world, Osborne remarks. In this regard, her meditative assemblages are safe, thoughtful retreats.
Art, a portal to expansion and retreat. Artist Josie Osborne achieves the highest exchange with her audience. She helps us to see in both directions.