By M. Sebastian Araujo
Art is an Evolution…of the Artist and the World around him.Pete Hocking is someone who seems to keep evolving and as he evolves his Art reflects the phases of his life. Recently we had a chat about just what makes him create …
What in this CRAZY World around us affects your Creativity?
My artwork (and life work) used to be more overtly political, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve recognized that aesthetic response can catalyze change, too. I have no doubt that everyday the injustices found on my Twitter feed will enrage me (and still sometimes jolt me to action), but I’m increasingly committed to crafting reflective moments as an antidote to the collective madness that passes as public life. I believe that if we’re committed to changing the world, we need to cultivate imagination – which is the only thing that allows us to conceptualize a different way of being from that we accidentally happen upon. Imagination requires regular opportunity for reflection, and I hope my artworks crack open a little poetic, reflective space for those who encounter them. I want to put a little beauty into the world.
What impact do you think technology has upon the creative process?
My camera has become my sketchbook. Digital photography allows me to do visual research throughout my day, not just in special moments when I have the time to stop and compose a drawing. But it doesn’t replace the kind of deep observation that drawing allows. That’s, I think, the important point. We shouldn’t be thinking of digital and analog technologies as being in competition. They can complement each other – allowing different ways of investigating, observing and documenting the world. And, beyond photography as a tool for making studio artworks, I also have a passion for visual and material culture, and my camera documents, archives, and lets me share those quirky things I run across.
While I generally think of myself as a painter, digital photography has also enabled me to pursue projects I couldn’t have done in a purely analog context. For example, I’ve pursued a durational performance piece since 2001 by posting a daily photographic self-portrait on the Internet. Over time it’s become a meditation on aging and a certain kind of idiosyncratic domesticity. And I’ve been able to undertake a number of other archival projects, like a series of landscapes photos I take every morning, which I call the ‘weather report.’
What in your daily life and surroundings inspire your work?
As a kid I heard a story about Henry Thoreau that affected me deeply. Asked if he’d ‘traveled,’ by which the questioner meant to ask if he’d been to Europe, Thoreau replied, ‘I’ve traveled extensively in Concord.’ What does it mean to make a commitment to traveling deeply in one small place? What do we see through repetitive observation? And what rewards might we receive by looking again?
My work is largely about identity and place. I’m fortunate to live in two beautiful places, Provincetown and the College Hill neighborhood of Providence, RI. Since I’m preoccupied by structures and perceptions of space and place, these communities offer ample opportunity to study the human and non-human environment. So I walk the same streets looking and looking, finding new inspiration every day.
What makes people respond to Art?
The anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake defines art as a process of ‘making special that which is important.’ Through art we bring attention to the things we value and through aesthetic experience we come to better understand our relationship to the world. We’re taught that knowledge is something that exists in words and is disseminated by authorities, but transformative knowledge most often is found in fully embodied experience. Through art we can literally *feel* meaning.
I’ve found that the most provocative artworks encourage dialogue through some kind of correlation between the embodied experience of the viewer and the artist, resulting in something the philosopher Maxine Greene referred to as a continuation of ‘the unfinished conversation.’ We seek aesthetic experience in order to pursue some inquiry into life’s mysteries, in the hopes of finding kinship with those who share our affinities (or disquietude), and to feel a little less lonely.
Was there a “shining light bulb” moment in your life, when you realized that you were an artist? If so what was it?
What is it to be an artist? There’s the democratic answer: everyone’s an artist (but hasn’t yet discovered it). And there’s all the elitist gatekeeping done by higher education institutions, theaters, galleries, museums, fellowship programs and the like. Both of these positions are unsatisfying to me, and actually pretty boring.
I don’t think being an artist is something you ever achieve. It’s a commitment to a process of inquiry and discovery, and exists in one’s willingness to actually do the work of being present and making sense of what’s encountered. So it’s something you discover every day. And it’s something you lose from time to time. But if you are ‘an artist,’ you do the work of finding it again—mostly because, once undertaken, the commitment is insistent.
What is it about Provincetown that keeps you and other creative people living there or coming back ?
Provincetown is layered. Because for a long time the town’s land was held by the Commonwealth and no one properly owned it, and because the old timers had no compunction about moving buildings from place to place, the older sections of town have a wonderful pell-mell quality about them. Whether it’s barnacle additions or the placement of one building upon another, the result is a landscape that’s emerged organically from a common ingenuity, need, and negotiation, rather than from the sterility of a designer’s plan.
Place informs the psyche, so Provincetown’s social ecology has many of the same peculiarities as its townscape. Many come here to think, work through questions, or to reinvent their lives. In some cases it’s a flirtation with the taboo that unfolds over vacation and for others it’s rather more profound. For a long time, maybe not as much anymore, this place offered creative folks an opportunity to imagine and pursue possibilities outside the confines of everyday life. It’s more expensive now, for many prohibitively so, but some of Provincetown’s intellectual radicalism remains—enough to be a light in dark times.
And, let’s face it, the place is gorgeous
To Find out More about Pete’s Work Click Here:
Show at Four Eleven Gallery (1-14 July) is at: