Friday, April 30, 2010

Career Paths: Jason Hackenwerth

New York-based artist Jason Hackenwerth’s striking exhibition at the City Arts Center opened last week .  Fortunately, he was in town for over a week creating the work and was willing to discuss the business side of his artistic practice. 

This is the first in a series of accomplished artist profiles in preparation for OVAC’s “Career Paths” workshop on May 22.  Especially, I am interviewing them about turning points in their career and some practical steps they have taken. 

Hackenwerth’s career is atypical in that he travels the country, even globe, creating site specific installations primarily out of colorful balloons.  His career demonstrates one example of the great distinctiveness in artists’ careers. 

When asked for key turning points in his career, Hackenwerth cited a New York City residency offered by his MFA program, the Savannah College of Art and Design.   Through his school’s New York City Workspace Opportunity, he was awarded a semester with a studio space near Times Square.

He said the other artists nearby were professionals, showing him the work ethic that committed artists must have.  At the same time he interned at area galleries.   He learned about how exhibitions work, met gallerists, and was exposed to international artists’ work.  He began attending and helping with art fairs, broadening his experience. 

These gallery relationships led to a job and apartment for him after he graduated.  He said the residency allowed him an easier entrance into the tight arts community. 

An OVAC Facebook fan added this question: “Everyone talks about the all important artist statement. Did you find that it was really important in getting your foot in the door?”
Hackenwerth replied that the artist statement is more for yourself, to clarify your work and intentions.  He argued that the statement is not nearly as important as making interesting work.   For his own work, Hackenwerth said he has a public statement that makes the work accessible, while keeping certain aspects of his work more private or unexplained.   For instance, he used this statement for the work at City Arts Center.
"I remember the summer I was seven years old. My family was having a reunion during the 4th of July weekend.  Usually my bedtime was 8 o'clock but I stayed outside playing with my cousins in the big field behind the house.  Surrounding the field was dense forest and I will never forget the excitement I felt as the sky got dark and the sounds of the cicadas in the trees were all around.  It was the first time I played ghost in the graveyard and ventured out into the dark and spooky places on my own."
Thanks to Hackenwerth for sharing insight with Oklahoma artists.  His exhibition at the City Arts Center continues through May 22.   You also can follow Hackenwerth's career and studio notes on his blog.  

OVAC invites you to the Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Career Paths,” on May 22. The day will focus on artistic career stages, personal assessment, and practical job options.