Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview With Juan Hinojosa

Juan Hinojosa in front of his installation "Vomit" at Vermont Studio Center, 2009.

This is Juan Hinojosa who I met at Vermont Studio Center last fall. He currently lives and works in Queens, NYC. He makes collages and installations using found and mundane materials that range from fashion logos to metro cards to pornographic imagery that he picks up around the city. In continuation of my artist interview series, here is my conversation with Juan:

Megan: What are your biggest struggles and fears in art making?

Juan: Finishing a piece seems to be hard these days. I start a piece, have an idea then start a new piece. That repeats over and over. I have to stop and force myself to finish something. I find myself very annoying. I struggle with self-control all the time.

M: Yes, I think finishing work is sometimes the hardest part. I actually say this probably way too often, but my professor in college once said about painting something like: being faced with finishing a piece and really solving the problems is when real painting begins. So in a way, the finishing of your art is actually art making. Are there ways that you have found useful in “forcing yourself to finish something”?

J: That's a great way to look at it. I usually have to talk myself into turning my iTunes really low, turning HULU off, and ignore my phone. I sit in my kitchen and I don't get up till it's done.

M: Discipline and it sounds like you have a good idea about the things that distract you from your work. In what ways is your creative process related to supported by or connected to the rest of your life?

J: Because I reference pop culture, I get to spend a lot of time “researching” by buying comic books, surfing the interweb, and watching a lot of YouTube and HULU. Though it may seem that I am spending hours in front of the computer on a bright sunny day I am clearly “researching” ideas of what to do next. The Internet has altered the way pop stars and the news is released to the public. As an artist / consumer I have to keep up with what’s going on.

"022, 2009"

M: You seem to have a bit of a mocking tone about your process, almost like you aren’t totally taking yourself seriously but when I look at your work you seem to tackle very authentic, serious and specific topics. For example: homosexuality, super heroes, debris of consumerism in the form of colorful litter. Why are these topics important to you? Do you feel like you take yourself seriously? Also, if you feel that you must “keep up on what’s going on” what do you think would happen if you didn’t?

J: I really don’t see it as mocking. It’s just the way I talk about things. In all honestly I mock everything and everyone. Nothing is off limits. That’s just my personality. I do take my artistic career and myself very seriously. The topics I decide to focus on are my way to a future understanding of them and to play with their meaning.

As for “keeping up with what’s going on”… it’s fun. Pure and simple. If I didn’t keep up I think I would be very bored.

(Photo by Howard Romero)

M: How would you describe inspiration?

J: One word. POPCULTURE. It's one of the few things that everyone can relate to in some way, shape, or form … especially on a global level thanks to the all mighty Internet.

M: What is it about pop culture that is so inspiring for you? I understand that you see it as something everyone can relate to. This seems more like an excuse or a reason to use it as a muse. What I want to know is what makes it your muse? The colors? The glamour? The speed? What about it are you drawn to? We also already talked about specific elements of popculture that you sample from (gay porn, found candy wrappers, superheroes) what else would you add to that list? Can you talk about why you might specifically choose those elements and how they relate to the rest of your life?

J: I would have to say it’s the Glamour. Pop culture in many ways is like visual candy and like candy itself, it is something I crave. It also has to do with the unattainable. Because of my ethnicity and economic background I was not suppose to have certain things or to achieve certain goals. So I make conscience efforts to obtain certain things I, and others like me, shouldn't have. So I am playing with pop culture in order to understand it and in some way control its effect on me.

M: Why do you make art?

J: Out of spite.

M: Out of spite for what?

J: Off the top of my head… my parents, other family members, my college professors and my own self doubt.

M: Do you think about a spiritual connection with your work?

J: Nope.

M: Why do you think art is important?

J: I think art is very important. As a kid, I would go to museums and I would fall into each and every piece of work and dream about making art as embracing as the ones I was staring into. I can only hope my works can have the same effect on some kid at a museum on a Saturday afternoon with his mother.

M: I like the image if you falling into each piece of art as if they are embracing you. Although you do not see this as spiritual, that sort of loving image seems very spiritual or at least connecting to me. I wonder what spite has to do with this embrace you are seeking to create with your work? As you said, this is your way "to a future understanding... and to play with... meaning". Thank you for sharing your art making thoughts with me and my readers. Talk to you soon!

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