Visual Artist based in Pullman, WA
Joe Hedges, Portrait of the Artist
Cloud Control, 2019
oil on canvas, oil on canvas over wood panel, monitors, CRT television, mini-computer, guitar pedals, cords, cables, time capsule, bubble wrap, video, sound
80” x 88” x 17”
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up in southwestern Ohio I always knew I wanted to be an artist, which is weird because I had never met an artist. I just knew that they liked to draw and that’s what I liked to do, too. I remember telling my parents I was an artist at age ten or eleven. My dad replied “you know, Joe, artists don’t make a lot of money”. I remember the exact sentence, because until that point I had never really even thought of career choices as being something that was associated with money, or with economic stratification. Although my interest in art was unwavering, over the next couple years I also entertained various future career choices like scientist, dancer and even attorney.
Installation of Madeleine Stowe
My drawings quickly improved and my dad came to realize that I had some talent, or at least an intense focus and determination, which is probably more important. He died of cancer when I was thirteen. The last time he could speak, he told me I could do whatever I wanted with my life, and that I would achieve success. In high school I joined a band, wrote some songs and spent some time as a recording artist for a label. We toured and had a blast. When the old music industry folded I went back to school and learned to paint and finished my degrees, and redirected my life toward the visual arts. During this time I also worked as a freelance webdesigner. Music, web and painting all inform my creative practice now.
Madeleine Stowe, 2018 18″ x 12″oil on board, digital image of Madeleine Stowe's IMDB page on digital device
"To be inspired and to do good work, one needs to step away from the “attention economy” of distraction, fear, and obsessive liking, at least for a while. Lately my work lately is about this push and pull."
(after Sandro Botticelli), 2019 oil on panel in found frame, television, guitar amplifier, arrow, wooden shelf, cords, cables, media player, video, audio
of ambient guitar performance 49” x 37” x 11”
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
Lately I am working on combinatorial works that include oil painting and new media installation. I call them Hypercombines, a reference to Rauschenberg’s idea of a combine as being part painting and part sculpture. But some of these works are hooked up to the internet or reference the internet and include smart phones and tablets. Essentially, I am making works that are rooted in a tradition of representational oil painting, but are also part of the “internet of things”.
Smooth & Shiny, 2019 oil on canvases in found frames, cassette players, cassettes, found sounds, cycle timer, wooden shelf, plastic cup, pencil
54” x 44” x 10”
View with Imaginary River, 2019 oil on canvas, Yamaha PSR-75 Keyboard, guitar delay pedal, computer speaker, cables, C major chord with a suspended seventh 44” x 47” x 6”
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in an artist's practice. What do you do for inspiration?
For inspiration I like traveling and walking in forests, but I also like sitting at a desk and browsing Google images or street view. I tend to see painting itself as a form of technology. Expanding the lens of what constitutes as “technology” to include graphite pencils, oil on canvas, a gym shoe we can get more objectively see our various media for what they are, and perhaps combat some of the negative effects that social media is having. To be inspired and to do good work, one needs to step away from the “attention economy” of distraction, fear, and obsessive liking, at least for a while. Lately my work lately is about this push and pull.
Installation view, Hypercombines
Island Hopping, 2019, oil on panel, digital image of Google Image search on digital device 2019
Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
Ideas usually start from being out in the world, often in nature. Ideas come from books, from nature, from my own photos and from other artists. Although I do spend a lot of time creating at the computer and time painting on canvas or panel, I see myself more as an artist in the world rather than a studio artist. The work ends up being about these various ways of producing and consuming.
How do you make your work? Where do you start and how does the process evolve?
I generally begin with images and take them into Photoshop. I use Photoshop as a sketch pad to see how different objects and images can relate. Then I shift to the physical realm, building canvas stretchers and painting on canvases and panels. Then I move back to the computer to play with how images or videos might work with the paintings. I also compose music and soundscapes for some pieces. Finally, installing the works are kind of like setting up small installations. The result is a kind of reflexive process that engages both physical and digital worlds, and explores the tension between, inviting viewers to reconsider the boundaries between media and conceptions of fine art.
Many artists live by their creative routines, do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
I wish I was an artist that lived by my routine! At various times I have aspired to be, but this never really worked for me. I tend to be a bit more idiosyncratic, working intense hours for weeks or months, then having longer periods of rest and reflection. Lately I am definitely a bit more conscientious of my physical and mental health, so although I don't have a super strict routine I try not to let myself get too manic. I think there is too much pressure to produce all the time. A big part of being an artist for me is taking time to reflect on choices and to slow down to just be or do nothing. Now that artists are under constant pressure to post regularly to Instagram in order to advertise our productivity; doing nothing is a subversive act and I try and give myself time for that. The most inspiring moments for me are out in the world, in forests and oceans and rivers or museums. The studio is a time for work, and I tend not to be too romantic about it.
Who are your biggest influences?
Robert Rauschenberg, the internet of the late 1990's, René Magritte. I am influenced by people who challenge the way I see things, I consider myself an intermedia artist and I often look at other artists who were thinking about vision, perception and the history of art, or who were not afraid to combine various interests in new ways.
Free Transform, 2019
oil on canvas, mini-computer, cords, computer monitor with oceanographic temperature data, website
48” 76” x 2”
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
Lately I have been reading Jaron Lanier's books about big data and the attention economy, as well as How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. I think there's an important intellectual backlash happening right now against social media, against corporate and government surveillance, against distractions and constant notifications, and even against the harms of global capitalism and extraction and expansion logic. I think the question of how humans engage with technology is among the most important questions right now, and I am always on the look out for people addressing this topic in thoughtful ways.
Gesamtkunstwerk, 2019, oil on canvas, grommets, vintage stereo, tablet, a selection of Richard Wagner overtures⠀ 51” x 33” x 10”
How will Innovate Grant contribute to your practice?
I will use this grant to help with the costs of art materials. Every artist knows how expensive materials are, and my work is unfortunately getting more expensive as I incorporate more technology. I have a piece in mind that makes use of the idea of the Satyr or Faun as a metaphor for how humans are essentially cyborgs--torn between their physical existence and the constant input and output of the internet. Check out my website in a few months and if this piece is there, you can thank this grant! Thank you so much.
We Care About You and Your Memories, 2018, oil on canvas, plastic storage containers, macbook, PC, monitors, electronics, glass, concrete, 126″ x 95″ x 60″ photo by Joe Hedges
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I spent a few years doing odd graphic design and web design jobs, oil painting portraits, and other things just piecing together a life to pay the rent. At this time someone told me "Don't let anyone else determine your value. You decide what you're worth." This stuck with me and helped me a lot in the following years as my career began to take shape. Now I think this is especially important for artists--as images, music and every other human creation becomes more readily available, we need to fight for the worth of our work. This grant is a wonderful affirmation that the arts have value, and that there are people out there willing to acknowledge that.
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
Don't wait for opportunities. Make your own scene, make your own show, and make your own identity. Oh--and occasionally, turn off your phone.
, 2019 oil on panel, digital device
, 20” x 16” x 1”