Joe Hu has graciously agreed to be the first interviewee for this blog. He lives and works in Philadelphia. Recently, Joe had a thought provoking and finely crafted exhibition up at Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia. He currently has work up at the Pennsylvania Academy and is featured in Mid-Atlantic edition New American paintings. For more information, and to see more of his work visit his website at www.josephhu.net.
1. Your current body of work deals with recreating objects that have been given to you। I was wondering where did that come from, how did that develop?
Making art for me is a very carefully considered decision। As all of us artists know, it's an extremely difficult option to take and comes with a certain amount of derision from family and peers. In my case, I've decided that if I'm going to make the sacrifices necessary to follow this path, it's going to be in the service of the most honest, sincere and rigorous work that I can produce. I know that sounds hopelessly cliched, but it's the truth. After going through a particularly depressed period, where I questioned my vocation, my motives, my career options, how I would survive in the world and how I could live with myself, I decided to only do this if the work I made was what I really wanted to make, whatever I wanted to make, and that it had nothing to do with what other people wanted me to make if that's not what I wanted. I decided not to be influenced by what was more saleable, marketable or critically popular, and only focus on what I though was the best work I could make and what I could be proud of. At this vulnerable moment at which I was either going to quit making art or doing something real, I spent some time examining myself and my habits, my interests, etc. All my art has been about trying to understand the basic questions: who am I, where do I come from, how do I relate to the world,etc. Ever since I was a child, I always had a very acute awareness of my relationships to family, friends, etc. Not particularly a cognitive understanding of what those relationships meant or how they operated, but aware none the less of the base feelings that were present in them.
This current body of work is a bit of an indulgence. I'm using these objects that people have given me, and I'm projecting all the feelings I have about the givers and the situations in which I was given them, and all the emotions and love, longing, regret, etc, onto these objects, really pouring my pent up energies into the meticulous construction of these facsimiles in the most extreme way that I know how. This process has allowed me to both embrace and release the strong and meaningful feelings I have with each of the givers and their objects.
2. Your aesthetic is very defined. How has your aesthetic come to where it is today?
This one is easy and pretty short. I'm a virgo. My father is a virgo. He is also an architect, and his work has always permeated our living space whether it be his actual office in the basement or his collection of modernist furniture in the house. My mother is also extremely particular in her running of the house and this has spread to all of my siblings. To this day, I can walk into the kitchens of any of my family and instinctively know where items are kept purely on what is the most logical and how Mom would have done it.
3. There is a quiet and yet very emotional component to your work। How does your emotional life affect,or does it even affect your work?
My emotions are everything in my work conceptually। That is WHY I make art - to understand, express, and release the emotions that I have towards the people in my life or the situations that I find myself in. I feel that our relationships with the people in our lives constitute the real meaning in our lives. Without people to care for and be cared by and share highs and lows with, my existence would be fairly meaningless.
4.Your work has been described as an existential crisis, however, I don't necessarily agree with it being a crisis, more of a acceptance. How do philosophical examinations of life come into your work?
Philosophical, psychological, emotional - my work is really made from these things. Philosophically, I do take seeds of ideas from critical writing and philosophy that I find that is related to and helps me to better understand and define my feelings. For example, Lewis Hyde's "The Gift" was consulted while I was working on this current body of work. Other works that I've looked to in the past include Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, Beaudrillard, Barthes, Benjamin - the big obvious ones really,but enlightening none the less.
5. Craft is explicitly important to you as discerned by the craftsmanship in your work. Where has that evolved from?
My craft has always been with me. Like I mentioned before, I am a Virgo and come from neat and particular parents. As far as I can remember, I have always been a little bit anal retentive about certain things, the presentation of my work in particular. I've always tried to do things the "proper" way, learning all the techniques that I could and applying them to the best of my ability. With the sculptures, I've tried to turn it up a notch because the craft and their believability is really important conceptually। If they couldn't pass for the objects they represent,then they wouldn't mean anything। Transforming cheap everyday materials into carefully crafted works of art and presenting that to the viewer is part of the "gift".
TOP TEN INFLUENCES
Mom and Dad
Kiki Smith (I'm a new fan of her work!)
A mix of all the advice I've received from past professors