{mosimage}Joshua Inayat, recent transplant to the QCA and creator of Eternal Touch Studios; is taking the town by storm. His surreal artwork is both vibrant and alive, deep and emotional. With spectacular photography in cemeteries and cunning computer graphic manipulation, the works coming out of Eternal Touch Studios are adding beauty to all of the lives it touches. {mosimage}Joshua Inayat created Eternal Touch Studios in April of this year when he realized he could merge several of his hobbies and ideals. Using standard equipment, his vision is so unique he feels like he's swimming upstream.

"My work is apparently so different that most established companies won't even respond to my e-mails. It's not because my work is bad, not at all... It's just so different, I can't even pay some companies to advertise for me. There's no precedence for this kind of art. There's no existing market. It's a very big risk for them, as I'm really cutting my own trail here."

Joshua's mixed media creations don't focus simply on the head stones as most cemetery photographers do.

"I really just follow my intuition when I'm taking these photos," he says. "I combine sunlight, shadows, clouds, the sky, trees, grass; all of the nature around the monument to create a much... larger experience for the viewer. Death is one aspect in my art, yes, but there's so much life in each piece it really shows the beauty of our duality."

When asked about peoples reaction to his work, this is what he said: "A lady at a Hungry Hobo here in town helped me out when my credit card was canceled by my bank due to identity theft issues. She accepted an out of state check since I was a regular so I could just eat lunch. To repay her kindness, I gave her one of my favorite pieces of a stone angel from the Riverside Cemetery in Moline.
It's very green around the angel monument due to spring time bushes, and the sunlight was coming from directly overhead and kind of washes out the top of the bushes... The angel is a very clean white, very bright, almost glowing. I handed it to her in a frame, and at first I thought she didn't like it. She just looked confused, like she didn't know what she was seeing. Then she got goose bumps all over, shivered, and smiled at me like I've never seen a human being smile before. It was so... pure. I think that's probably one of the best gifts I've ever given in my life. I knew that this was my life work when I saw that woman smile about what I had given her. There's no other feeling like it in the world."

Joshua works a full time job on top of running the emerging online art studio. "It takes up a lot of my time," he says. "If I'm not working, eating or sleeping, I'm working on this. It's such a huge challenge because people don't even think about cemeteries usually. Very few people have even considered hanging up some kind of memorial piece in their home or office."

When asked why that was, here is what he told us: "In our culture, death is a taboo. If America could outlaw dying, I think we would. There's so much fear and prejudice, it makes me very sad. Actually stating that you like cemeteries and find death beautiful is grounds for automatic "freak" or "devil worshipper" status. I'm neither. I simply believe I have found within myself an understanding of life. Death is invariably a part of it, and is perhaps one of the most natural human conditions. And just because everybody has, or is going to do it, doesn't make it any less heroic. Any family who has lost a loved one knows that it takes a lot of courage, growth, and pain to get through the process. I see mourning as a beautiful form of bravery and spiritual grace."

So we asked, "Is that why you create all of your art as 'Memorial Pieces?'"
"Yeah, I think the courage and... how much life and strength it takes die needs to be truly honored. Not just in the ways we do now, to me, I think it lacks something bigger than ourselves. That's why my pieces capture so much of the world we live in. Every piece is a monument."

People have often asked Joshua if he contacts the family members of those monuments he photographs. "No," he said, looking down for a moment. "I really haven't had the courage to push myself on people like that. I'm really hoping that family members will recognize a family monument in my art and feel good about it. You know, the whole 'Hey, looks like Grampa finally got his famous portrait!' sort of thing."

Joshua currently looks forward to taking his first commissioned piece. "I can't wait for the day where I get an e-mail from somebody telling me they love my vision and work so much, they want me to create something for them with a family member's marker or plot. I can't think of any higher honor or more humble position than creating something so beautiful and powerful as a family memorial. I'm hoping that day will come soon."

Despite a busy schedule, Joshua can be contacted through his web site, http://www.eternaltouchstudios.com for any questions. He's also posting regularly on the message board on the studio's web site.

"It's taking some time to catch on in the mainstream because it's such a foreign concept to us. 'Death is Beautiful?' It takes most people some time to think it over and look at some of the artwork to really understand, in their own personal way. A lot of people don't ponder such deep concepts on a day to day basis. For a lot of us our daily depth is a quick prayer that we'll get a pay raise, what's on TV and occasionally thanks for what we have. Understanding enough to create this artwork has really enriched my life, and I hope that it will do the same for my fans."

All of Joshua's artwork is available for viewing in the online gallery on http://www.eternaltouchstudios.com. Currently, 60 pieces are available for purchase in a variety of size, paper, and framing options. Joshua welcomes all inquires about custom work, and loves speaking with anybody who has questions or comments for him.

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