Au Courant: How did you come up with the name, “Hoop and Stick”?
Hoop & Stick: I mostly liked the way it sounded, and it was easy to make a logo for. Granted, that’s a pretty lame answer. I should think of a more interesting story behind it; an allusion to the old timey games kids used to play—something like that. I do get to answer to “Hoop”, though. I guess that’s reason enough.
Au Courant: Were you always a collage artist, or have you experimented with other mediums as well?
Hoop & Stick: I play around with other media—more so back in the day than I do now. I can draw a pretty mean charcoal portrait, and I used to screen print stencils that I cut. I kind of lucked out and realized I liked collage early on, about the time I began to consider art more than just an idle hobby.
Au Courant: Why collage?
Hoop & Stick: I’ve come to find that I think in terms of collage. At this point, it’s sort of an intuitive thing, but there’s a story behind how I realized collage was my medium of choice: I was living in an apartment building with all of my best friends, and we’d periodically eat shrooms and hang out. I’ve always wanted to make something while I was tripping, and—for some reason—drawing and painting seemed like too much effort. Collage (which was a technique I had used a few times before) felt like a good idea at the time. So there I was, with all my scraps strewn about the floor, my roommate (Dan) was lying in the corner listening to music, and his little kitten (named Skizz) was burrowing underneath all my scraps. Pie-eyed, heavily sweating, and feeling things I’ve never felt before, I would stab a scrap on the floor with my x-acto knife to retrieve it, and bring it to the small table where I’d proceed to agonize (happily) over what element should go where. Now, I had total control over my arms, and I was super aware of where Skizz was the whole time, but I guess my actions really freaked Dan out. Instead of removing the kitten from danger, he just got up to ride out the rest of his trip in his bedroom, which I thought was kind of funny. Anyway, there was something about how the colors hummed at me, and forms just connected with each other so well that I kind of had an epiphany. When I finished the piece, I ran downstairs to the floor where my other two friends lived and proceeded to bother them with questions about whether the piece looked good sober. HA! I was obnoxious!
Later on, I’d come to the realization that everything is a collage. Everyone’s ideas were influenced by other ideas. People’s personalities are amalgams of what they learned. You are physically a collage of genes. Your mom is a collage. All matter is a combination of molecules which are combinations of atoms and so on. Eventually, you might get down to a basic unit of X, but that pure variable is probably far less interesting than the shit it makes when it’s slapped together with other Xs and Ys.
Au Courant: You appear to prefer vintage content. Why is this?
Hoop & Stick: There are a couple of reasons. The boring ones are that the paper used for books and magazines back then holds up better to cutting and gluing. Also, a lot of modern magazines use real cheap ink and thin paper, so you can see the print on the backside of the page even after your shit is glued down. The color palate of the 30s-60s is much better too. What’s more interesting than that, is that looking through old magazines and books sort of gives you a peek into the idealized lives of the mainstream ruling class at that period of time (heterosexual white men). Seriously, there are at least a dozen ads in any publication which are all about what a young woman can do to get a man to notice her—as if being a married house-slave is the highest aspiration a woman could have. Those images are just as relevant today as they were then. Oh, we’ve tried to sweep racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia under the rug a bit here and there, but the social bullshit that is implied in those images persists. If the meaning of a collage happens to escape my audience, I hope that they—at least—get some sense of irony at our sense of progression through the years. It’s still, very much, a white-man Christmas every day in this country.
Au Courant: How did you get so damn good with an ex-acto?
Hoop & Stick: As I got better at drawing, I got better at cutting; it’s pretty much a direct correlation. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone, but not only do I get more precise, but I find that I can cut faster too.
Au Courant: A lot of your pieces appear to have a political agenda or message to them. Care to elaborate on that?
Hoop & Stick: I like to make art that’s about shit. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do composition experiments and make stuff that’s purely decorative, but it’s less rewarding for me. A lot of the themes in my work come from philosophy, cosmology, or a mythos I’m constantly creating and revising. I like social issues as well. Not every issue addressed—not every question raised—is mine though. I like to have fun with “isms” that I don’t actually believe in, like existentialism, religion, or the vague idea that there are things out there beyond scientific knowledge. Bah! Just because I don’t take the “ism” seriously, doesn’t mean I can’t make something about it. Hell, we don’t believe in dragons, but we all liked The Lord of the Rings.
That being said, there are a few pieces which do reflect my own beliefs—you get points if you can guess which they are!
Au Courant: What’s your strongest piece thus far and why?
Hoop & Stick: The next piece I’ll be working on.
Actually, it’s hard to say. There are hits and misses, but ultimately I’ll never hang a collage that I don’t think is pretty strong. I really like the work on canvas that I’ve been doing lately. I have to worry less about a found background element and I get to play with acrylics.
Au Courant: What’s your favorite artist?
Hoop & Stick: Too many are tied for first place that it’d be a list. If I were to single out one of the strongest influences in my own work it would be the collages of Kurt Schwitters. I’m a big fan of the Dada movement, and Schwitters’ merz collages always captivated me.
Au Courant: Talk me through the process of making a collage.
Hoop & Stick: The most important thing to do first is to amass a sizeable collection of images, patterns, colors, textures, objects, and text that you find visually stimulating. Almost as important, is to have a vague idea of what the collage is going to be about (if anything). The key word in that last sentence is “vague”. If you have a definite picture in your mind, or an idea which necessitates specific imagery, you’re going to spend the rest of your irate life tracking it down. Once you got that taken care of, it helps to find one main image that strikes you. Make all of your design decisions around that image; what to cut and rip, where to place things, how much stuff goes where, and what colors work well with other colors. If you’re doing it right, most of your time will be spent making decisions (at least until collaging becomes habitual). Once you have everything in place, use a pen to discretely mark where your scraps go, and glue that shit down. I’d get into specifics and talk technique, but I fear I’m being long-winded as it is.
Do you think your art form gets the same respect as other mediums or the respect it deserves? Why do you suppose that is?
Unfortunately it doesn’t. I mean, it’s more respected now than it used to be, but you still run into this idea that collage is a precursor to painting or just a design exercise. Hell, it gets worse; you have to deal with people who liken it to scrapbooking or other such grandma-crafts. I haven’t had to deal with too much of that though. I think the reason why (other than historical prejudices against the medium) is that people see it as appropriating other people’s art and calling it your own. That’s partially true, but what they don’t get is that the artistry lies in technique, manipulation, and the creation of a new statement from unrelated miscellany. Collage (like painting) is still one part creative process, one part style, and one part craftsmanship.
Au Courant: What’s in your cd player at the moment?
Hoop & Stick: I’ve been listening to a lot of space rock and post-metal lately. Bands like Cave In, Pelican, and God is an Astronaut. I listen to just about anything though. I go through these lengthy moods and specific genres seem to enhance them. I will say that no matter what genre I’ve been listening to lately, I always punctuate it with punk rock and hardcore music. Fast-paced aggressive stuff is what I grew up listening to, so it’s always near and dear to me.
Au Courant: What’s your favorite piece of art that you own that you didn’t create?
Hoop & Stick: What a trap of a question! All the artists whose work I own are friends of mine. I show my work with most of them at the same venues. To choose one over the next would be unthinkable! Wait, ya know what? It’s my Communist Manifesto. That slim masterwork of socio-economic literature is one of my most prized possessions. Were there to be a zombie apocalypse tomorrow, and I could only take one luxury item (in addition to necessities), that would be it. Well, either that or my smokes.
Au Courant: What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?
Hoop & Stick:I wish I could say that hard work and perseverance was all it took to make great art and to get people interested in it—unfortunately it’s not. Networking is crucial in any field that you want to break out in. This is especially true of art. Think of it this way: it’s not about you; it’s never about you. It’s about what you’re bringing to the art community. Go to the shows, visit the galleries, and talk to the artists. Make friends. Let them influence your work and listen to their advice. Give advice if asked. You’re contributing to the scene, not trying to dominate it. A strong art community strengthens everyone involved in it. Couple that attitude (and action) with productivity in the studio, and you won’t have time to stagnate. You’ll get to the next level before you realize that you’ve arrived.
Au Courant: What do you want people to get out of your art?
Hoop & Stick: Quite honestly, I’d like people to get anything more than an “oh that’s pretty” out of it. I mean, it’s great that someone finds my work aesthetically pleasing—I’m flattered—but there’s meaning in these pieces as well. Hell, I really don’t care if someone gets the actual intent of a particular piece, so long as it made them think for a second. Often, I leave the context somewhat ambiguous as to invite interpretation. It’s kind of cool to hear people discuss what they think is going on in a collage; it gives you a peek into what they’re bringing to the table psychologically or intellectually. In this way, we’re sort of entering into a dialogue regardless if I’m actively speaking to them or not.
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