Keyes has always created work with almost apocalyptic visions of a world abandoned, where humans have left behind materialistic remnants of civilization. But recently, his life and art have markedly evolved. In almost striking similarities with his work, he has become rooted in the Pacific Northwest, with the lush environment now on each canvas. Gone are the dioramas, the signature white-background pieces that famously identified him; enter a more personal style, darker, and oddly, paintings suffused with humanity.

The following is an excerpt from the August, 2015 issue of Juxtapoz Magazineavailable now in our webstore and on newsstands worldwide.

In a subtle but compelling way, Josh Keyes is the perfect embodiment of building an issue around the environment. The work is there, the ideas are poignant, and his new home in Portland is grounded in the context of forward-thinking relations to nature. Keyes has always created work with almost apocalyptic visions of a world abandoned, where humans have left behind materialistic remnants of civilization. But recently, his life and art have markedly evolved. In almost striking similarities with his work, he has become rooted in the Pacific Northwest, with the lush environment now on each canvas. Gone are the dioramas, the signature white-background pieces that famously identified him; enter a more personal style, darker, and oddly, paintings suffused with humanity. —Evan Pricco

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Evan Pricco: How much attention do you pay to environmental news or climate change politics?
Josh Keyes: I think it’s hard not to be aware of environmental issues these days. Nearly every newspaper or news-related website has a new study or report of an environmental disaster related to climate change. It’s become part of the tapestry of our culture. In my work, it is a theme and situation that is ever-present. If not hinting at a change, it pushes it to absurd extremes.

How did the animal, no matter what animal you use, start showing up in your work?
A couple films I saw as a kid really inspired my love of animals and animal imagery: Watership Down, The Plague Dogs, Empire of the Ants, and the original King Kong. These movies tapped into my imagination and inspired me to create my own narratives. In school, I was really interested in biology and the structure of ecosystems. I made a few drawings and paintings illustrating the carbon cycle and food chain of the forest. I suppose that is also where my interest in diagrammatic and science textbook imagery began. The animal imagery that appears in the work now is rooted both in biology, metaphor and personal symbolism.

What is your biggest fear about the changing world around us?
Becoming a new parent is the most amazing and transforming experience, but it has also opened a Pandora’s box of anxiety about the future. The environmental issues are tremendous, and, unfortunately, I think many of the dire predictions of rising sea level and drought will occur. My biggest fear is not so much the environmental crisis but the human one, ourselves. That we may destroy ourselves and the planet through war.

One of the things that I find interesting is that political art has often been geared to social and class issues, but climate change politics are in desperate need of a voice. With your powerful work on the topic, I have been wanting to ask if you are aware that many people think of your work as representative of this political art?
That is quite a compliment. If my work does inspire people to think about their relationship to the environment, then that is great! I think there are a number of environmental art activists out there, and many more are emerging. My work does express a certain point of view, one of concern. Over the years I have worked with Tiny Showcase and Pangea Seed, releasing print editions that hopefully raise awareness and help fund non-profit environmental organizations. Every era has specific issues and challenges to face, so I think artists who are interested in communicating and tapping into the zeitgeist need to address the state of the earth and environment in some way. It is the formless mythology of our time, and, from my perspective, it is drenched in dystopia, though I know of other artists who focus on the bright and possible future.

Read the full feature in the August, 2015 issue, on sale now!