Interview With Joe Hedges

Joe is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is currently showcasing three of his pieces in our show Collocate.

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I am just a guy from southeastern Ohio, living in Cincinnati and making art. My work is about the effects of digital technologies on human aesthetic and sociological experience. I make photographs, paintings, Internet art projects and music.   

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works? 
I am a bit of a pack rat, and always seem to have a collection of odd objects. At some point in graduate school working on an MFA at the University of Cincinnati, I began collecting functional objects based solely on appearance rather than function. I was keeping the objects in boxes, making paintings of the boxes.  In the last year or so I started painting and photographing the objects themselves. I am drawn to both items from the natural world and ambiguous technological objects. The techno-objects might be anything from an interesting handle of a curling iron to the inside of a hard drive. Essentially, I am attempting to divorce the objects from their everyday functions completely, to allow the viewer to enter and invent more fantastic possible uses. So in short, I draw inspiration from everything around me, which I realize sounds like a cop-out answer. But I think as an artist if you can get into this kind of head-space--where every little weird thing in the world has the potential to be fascinating--you will feel more alive and more connected to your work.  

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Adobe Photoshop. I sometimes let the evidence of the Photoshop tools--the misplaced lasso, the accidental blurred edge--become part of the final composition. While I am more romantically connected to the physical artifacts I have lying around, the truth is almost nothing escapes my studio without having been touched by Photoshop, whether they are sources images for paintings or digital prints. Raster forever.  

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them? 
Well, I tend to be rather erratic in my thinking, so, I often would rather jump from project to project or series to series rather than buckling down and cranking out more work. I am still dealing with this. But usually, the solution is to find a system of steps that engages all my senses and urges to create a final product. One thing I like about these photographs is that I get to thrift store shop for or find discarded objects as a collector, arrange the objects like a sculptor, use the camera as a photographer, and then think as a digital painter in the end. I am also working on a series of paintings using the same process. Most of my work involves a few phases. I guess the trick is to set up a project that is complicated enough to sustain my interest, so that when one aspect of it becomes tedious I can work it from another dimension.  

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work? 
The large theme is science. Whether I will it or not, nearly everything I make tends to look oddly scientific or borrows from the visual language of science and technology. My dad always urged me to study the sciences, which I enjoyed, although I found my math concentration lacking and eventually turned to art. Only recently have I begun to see the conceptual links. I did some reading about the history and philosophy of science and became interested in epistemology, how information is organized and validated, how we know what we know. In the end, I think artists and scientists do the same kinds of things--experimenting, searching, connecting dots, and attempting to discover some new way of thinking. But of course the final result of the artist exploring creates a much different kind of meaning in the world. Societies place a great deal of reliance on scientific tools and the output of those tools as inscriptions (representations of scientific facts in the form of charts, graphs, etc.). I have come to see my recent art as challenging notions of visual and scientific information as reliable paths to understanding, while celebrating the wonder and possibility of experiment and representation generally.  

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)? 
Joseph Cornell was one of the first artists I really got into. I think the Cornell connection is obvious--collecting, astronomy, romance and mystery. Lately I have been looking at William Harnett trompe l'oeil paintings, Dutch Golden Age still-life paintings, especially breakfast tables and vanities. I just returned from Chicago and saw the David Bowie Is show at the MCA, which was impactful. I appreciate any artist who can move between different media, genres and be successful while retaining a clear voice. I don't think I am discerning enough to ever make a good art collector or connoisseur--I like looking at so many things and learning about everything. I am also a big Phil Collins fan in a non-ironic way.  

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given? 
From one of Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks: 
HOW YOU SHOULD MAKE AN IMAGINARY ANIMAL LOOK NATURAL 
You know that you cannot invent animals without limbs, each of which, in itself, much resemble those of some other animal. Hence if you wish to make an animal, imagined by you, appear natural--let us say a Dragon, take for its head that of a mastiff or hound, with the eyes of a cat, the ears of a porcupine, the nose of a greyhound, the brow of a lion, the temples of an old clock, the neck of a water tortoise. 
Love that.

See more of Joe's work here.