Isis Hockenos

Born in: 1986, California, United States
Lives in: Los Angeles, California
Media: Painting, Drawing
Describe your work in 3 words: Narrative, Colorful, Figurative

Look, I Got You Something - India Ink, Gouache and Colored Pencil on Paper 12 x 9 in. 2018

"I explore ideas of shape-shifting, transformation, masks and identity. Through vibrant visual narrative, sometimes parabolic, other times more abstruse, I take my experiences and surroundings and weave them into a personal mythology; a canon of stories that has been developing throughout my life and that I employ to better understand the world around me."

What themes does your work involve?
Mythology, human relationships, storytelling.
Describe your creative process.
I begin with a form, typically human, often from a photo I’ve taken or an amalgamation of photos. I rework this form until it has departed completely from the original source image and has taken on a life of its own. From here I compose my painting based on what I’ve been reading and thinking about lately. I typically work on 2-3 oil paintings at a time. While the paintings are in progress I make smaller works on paper using India ink, gouache and colored pencil (as seen here). These smaller, quicker works inform the larger paintings and visa versa. I know a piece is complete when I mix a color, approach the canvas (or paper) and the painting asks for nothing; it no longer needs me and can stand alone in the world.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I have always been influenced by storytelling, mythology and illustration. Recently, I have been looking at a lot of Max Beckmann and R.B. Kitaj and more contemporary artists like Peter Doig and Natalie Frank. Both of my parents were artists and I was educated in the Waldorf curriculum so art has been integrated into my life since birth. It was one of the languages I was raised to communicate with.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?

There is good art and there is successful art. The distinction, I believe, is that good art is subjective while successful art is objective. Considering a piece of art to be “good” is based on personal and aesthetic preference. A work is successful if the piece effectively communicates the intentions of the artist.

What is the role of the artist today?
The role of the artist today is to maintain visual language. By doing so we maintain diversity of communication, which is a critical part of shaping an empathetic world. It is impossible for a person to see everything at once. The artist distills the overwhelming experience of existing down to a human scale.
Naked Work Party - India Ink, Gouache and Colored Pencil on Paper, 12 x 9 in., 2018

 


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist