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Monday, 20 August 2007

Interview with Hope Kroll

q)Well, first of all please tell us a little about yourself.

a)I’m 39 years old and was born and raised in Skokie, IL. I received my Batchelor of Fine Arts degree from University of Illinois. I later moved to San Francisco where I received my Master of Fine Arts degree in 1992 at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1998 my husband and I moved to the country and we now live on the outskirts of Paso Robles, a small town in the Central Coast area of California. My lifelong fascination with miniatures extends far beyond my artwork. In my spare time, I am working on a ten room dollhouse for which I have made literally hundreds of cloth-bound miniature books. I also enjoy making French beaded flowers and making jewelry. Admittedly, I am a bit of a recluse. I have never driven a car and have no intention of ever doing so. I am a voracious reader, enjoy red wine, my husband, and our two dogs and three cats.

q)How would you describe your work?

a)Actually, I’ve always found my work to be especially difficult to describe as it doesn’t really fit into many of the existing genres. It has been variously described by others as surrealist art or narrative collage. I don’t really know what to call it. If nothing else, it could probably be best described as three-dimensional cut-paper collage.

q) Did somebody encourage you to become an artist?

a)Yes, both my parents encouraged me, but it was my mother that enrolled me in art school at the age of seven. I always knew I would become an artist.

q) What is your favorite medium?

a)I really enjoy making things out of paper.

q) Can you describe your process, from the seed of an idea to a complete work?

a)To begin with, I use only original materials, having taken all of my images from antique books, paper dolls, and old photographs. Of course, I am always on the look out for new source materials in bookstores and antique shops. Over the years, I have built an extensive library of images that I have cut out, sorted and keep stored in a variety of boxes and drawers. My studio is a converted two-bedroom mobile home where I have tables set up throughout most every room. I usually work on 30 - 40 pieces at a time. It’s an ongoing process. My tables are continuously full of pieces in all stages from beginning to end. Each piece is like trying to solve a puzzle. I simply walk around the room going from piece to piece trying to come up with the right solution.

q) Generally speaking, where do your ideas come from?

a)It’s really my choice of images that generally gives me my ideas. I never start out with any kind of agenda. I have always been fascinated by medical imagery and this is obviously reflected in my work. I tend to be attracted to all things medical, freaks of nature, physical deformities, outdated surgical procedures. I am particularly drawn to the idea using visceral terms to express psychological and emotional states. Another repeated theme I use is to incorporate flesh with machinery to create a kind of “Rube Goldberg” of the human psyche. Kind of a blueprint for how we relate to the world. Certainly, a number of my pieces simply reflect my own childhood fears, and I will often put children in the most horrific settings in order to juxtapose innocence with evil. I also use a wide variety of imagery from the natural world, specifically birds, which play an especially important role in my work acting as a sort of spiritual messenger, either for good or evil.
The titles of my pieces, while extremely important to me, often come later. I’ll often take them directly from the antique books I use for my source materials. Sometimes it may be taken from a title page, a chapter, or even a topic in an outdated encyclopedia. Finding the right title for a given piece is absolutely essential and often extremely challenging as well.

q) How long does it take to complete a piece?

a)Some of them, I figure out right away and I can finish a piece in a day or two. Others take a bit longer. It can sometimes take weeks, months or even years to finish a piece. Of course, some take more time just because they are that much more intricate. Sometimes I just have to wait until I figure out exactly what the piece needs.

q) Who are your favorite artists and who are some artists you are currently looking/listening to?

a)I guess my favorite artists would be Joel Peter Witkin, Joseph Cornell, Peter Bruegel, Hieronymus Bosch, the outsider artist Henry Darger, Max Ernst, Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and, of course, Terry Gilliam.

q) Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

a)I am represented in San Francisco by the Triangle Gallery (www.triangle-sf.com) I also have a solo show and lecture scheduled for October 3 – November 9 at Shasta College in Redding, CA. I currently have pieces on exhibit at The Art Center in San Luis Obispo, CA and at the Cornell Museum in Delray Beach, FL.

q) Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

a)I almost always forget to put any music on at all. In fact, if there is music on, I’m probably not working. As for rituals, first, I love up and feed my studio cat, Simon. Then, I walk from room to room looking at all my tables at the work in progress and looking to see if I think any pieces are finished. If so, I wrap them up in archival paper and put them in a box to be taken down to the house and photographed before filing them away. I usually have about five or six pieces on my “working” table. These are the ones I have been most recently working on. I then decide whether I am going to work on these, or rotate them out of the way onto another table. Then either I have an idea of what a piece needs and go get it, or just obsessively start looking through all of my images until I find what it is it needs.

q) What is your favorite a) taste, b) sound, c) sight, d) smell, and e) tactile sensation?

a)Favorite taste? Savory. I pretty much like anything bitter or sour.
Favorite sound? Probably a cork being pulled from a bottle of wine.
Favorite sight? My animals getting along.
Favorite smell? I don’t really think much about smell.
Favorite tactile? The feel of rubbing the fake satin border they put on blankets between my fingers. This particularly obscure and bizarre obsession is known as “snipping”. My whole family does it, even my nieces. I guess there must be a ‘snipping” gene that’s passed genetically. In any case, it’s just best for me to avoid the stuff entirely.

q) Do you have goals that you are trying to reach as an artist, what is your 'drive'? What would you like to accomplish in your 'profession'?

a)I would like to earn a comfortable living from my work. I would like to be recognized by the major art publications and to be represented by many galleries and museums around the world. What drives me is simply that I have to be either reading or making something all the time. If I’m not making something, I become unbalanced and unhappy.

q) When have you started using the internet and what role does this form of communication play for you, personally, for your art, and for your business?

a)Ever since leaving San Francisco in 1998, I have been working in relative isolation. I got my first computer just a few years ago and in many ways it’s become my only connection to the outside world. In fact, I am generally much more willing to answer an e-mail than I am the telephone. In any case, I have always found the idea of self-promotion to be absolutely overwhelming. When we eventually began working on building a website last fall, I joked about how nice it was that finally technology rose to meet me. My website only just launched in January, and I have already had people visiting it from more than 70 countries around the world. There is simply no way I could have ever hoped for that kind of exposure just a few years ago.

q) What do you obsess over?

a)What don’t I obsess over? Let’s see, scars, household cleanliness, organization in general, the Holocaust, my past, to name a few.

q) Do you have preferred working hours? Do you pay attention to the time of the day or maybe specific lighting?

a)Yes, I’m usually up at my studio from 1:00PM – 5:00PM when my husband is not traveling. Then I’ll also tend to bring stuff back with me to the house in the evenings. This is mostly busy work like cutting out images and sorting through and dissecting my books. When my husband is traveling, I’m usually up there pretty much on an off all throughout the day. Neither the lighting nor time of day really matters to me at all. I actually work best in a windowless environment.

q) Do you do commissioned works?

a)No. I hate doing commissioned work. It absolutely shuts me down.

q) Any tips for emerging artists?

a)That’s a hard one. I feel like I’m just now emerging myself. I guess I would definitely like to strongly urge any young artists to go to school. I think it’s important to be exposed to and challenged by as many new ideas as possible. The point is to find your own voice and be willing to follow it where it takes you.

q)Your contacts...

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