The haunting, dualistic art of painter Joe Velez

I haven’t posted anything in a while, so here’s an art feature I wrote about Hoboken artist Joe Velez which originally appeared on and in The Jersey Journal. I’ve known about his work for quite some time but was inspired to finally get in touch with him after seeing some of his work at Barsky Gallery in Hoboken.

Most recently, he showed his work at the Paterson Art Walk.

Photos by me! Mouse-over for full captions.

‘What in the world is going on here?’ — the haunting, dualistic art of Joe Velez

Hoboken’s Joe Velez blurs the lines between ecstasy and tragedy with his quiet paintings, which are at once violating and sensual, communicative and mysterious.

The Jersey City native said that although he sometimes collaborates with his models (often friends who volunteer to pose), his paintings are all him.

“What I love about painting is that it’s 100 percent me,” said the 34-year-old. “All the decisions are made by me.”

The self-taught painter began focusing on art at 21, when his stage shyness made playing guitar (his original passion) difficult.

“I started painting for fun,” said Velez. “I was encouraged right away. People were liking it. There was a small gallery, Art on Grove, and I just walked in with my work and I was invited to a group show in my first year painting. I fell in love with it.”

After developing his skills as a realist painter, Velez is now experimenting with new ideas like combining colored pencil and acrylic and going back to some old ones.

“I’m trying to bring more of the original spontaneity to it using the technique I’ve developed,” he said.

Right now, Velez is working on six paintings and multiple drawings at once, switching between projects from day to day. Some projects, he said, can take years to complete. As he works, he said he often makes decisions on the fly, letting the pieces come together organically.

The results are haunting: A nude man and woman on the bank of an urban river, bent in agony. Two old men in the middle of a New York City street with a woman sitting on the concrete between them in only a pair of black panties. A nude woman with pink flesh lying face down while a pig crosses behind her.

Viewers often look at the scenes and ask, “What in the world is going on here?” Velez knows, but keeps his lips shut.

“I have the intention of having an implied narrative — there’s obviously something going on,” he said. “But I don’t want to tell anybody — then they wouldn’t be able to bring their own thought process to it. What would be the fun in that?”

For more information, visit


About Summer Dawn Hortillosa

Summer Dawn Hortillosa is a journalist specializing in arts and entertainment. Among other things, she is also an award-winning playwright, director, singer-songwriter and actress. Her work has been seen in The Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal and other publications.
This entry was posted in Art, Interviews, Journalism, Online, Photography, Print and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The haunting, dualistic art of painter Joe Velez

  1. Avalynn27 says:

    These pictures are amazing! I love how he puts interpretation in his work by telling a story with by his own creation 🙂 very smart

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