"I actually invented a new artist statement," artist Josh Anderson says. "It's three words: Connect. Through. Suffering. I think suffering is kind of the one thing we have in common; it isolates us, and when we try to sugarcoat it, it's not all right."

Anderson is best described as a pen-and-ink illustrator, though with a punk rock bent to his output similar to the chaotic and dense work of Rudimentary Peni's Nick Blinko, it feels like "illustrator" doesn't convey the complex nature of his pieces. Anderson embraces a cartoonish aesthetic, but by tackling issues such as mental illness, PTSD and the general gamut of human emotions, there's almost always a deeper message to uncover.

Anderson picked up drawing skills from his folks and never from any sort of formal training. His mother, he says, taught him the three-dimensional cube, though he'd add sea life for aquarium-like tableaus. His father, however, leaned toward science fiction vehicles and landscapes, adding an element of sci-fi to Anderson's works. Neither were artists, but Anderson says he appreciated the lessons.

"My dad, God bless him, was a quirky guy and showed me crazy movies at a young age, like The Thing by John Carpenter," Anderson explains. "He was really a doodler, but he had an eye for it, and I think a lot of my stuff has a foundation of sci-fi or horror—he shaped how I see and draw art, but also, it's like echoes of trauma."

For Anderson, his art is the purest form of letting go. A dedicated punk rock fan as far back as he can recall, he says he's "the happiest punker you'll ever meet." Still, he's grappled with depression and mental illness; his father descended into alcoholism, and he has
dystonia, a relatively rare movement
disorder that affects his neck.

"It pulls really far to the right," Anderson says, "and if it goes all the way, I have to pull it back. It's really painful."

Anderson also suffers from PTSD after a terrifying period of time, over a decade ago, with a local church he won't name. He was sent to Alaska for reasons he still doesn't fully comprehend where he says he faced religious abuse, a violent priest and a forced excommunication from the arts. After 16 months there, he returned to Santa Fe for the holidays and struggled with whether or not to return.

"I basically felt like an apostate for the next 10 years," he says.

Still, the artworks flowed, becoming his feelings and repressed traumas writ large.

The theme of hope is ever prevalent. It's how Anderson has expanded his practice—pieces take him roughly a month, he says, and he usually has something in the works—and how he met and married his wife, Teresa, a local musician with the indie-punk band The Blackout Pictures.

"Mental illness is … y'know, it used to be a real secretive thing, and I always worried about stigmatization," Anderson muses. "I didn't want to be stigmatized—but I found, if indeed I'm full-on mentally ill … I always like this image of sitting on a subway train, letting the posters pass, but not stopping to read them; letting it pass."

For his upcoming show at the New Mexico Hard Cider Taproom, Anderson pulls from years of work, estimating the show will feature upwards of 30 pieces.

"I don't have any kind of filter," he says. "I'm just like, 'Aw, this is fucked up. People will like this.'"

Granted, the work won't do it for everyone, and some pieces read a little goofier than might seem appropriate, given Anderson's bent. But it's his utter lack of artifice, his genuine sincerity and in his unyielding wide-eyed optimism that the real magic lies. It's almost like you've gotta know the guy to truly appreciate what he's doing artistically.

Luckily, he is indeed the happiest punker you'll ever meet. Just extend your hand—we're sure he'll shake it.

Josh Anderson: Wreckage From the Past: 
5 pm Friday March 1. Free.
New Mexico Hard Cider Taproom,
505 Cerrillos Road,
231-0632