Georgia-based artist Justin Hodges’ practice lies somewhere in the seemingly wide gap between technology and nature. How we understand nature, connect to it, remember it, utilize it, or reflect on it is examined in his conceptual and occasionally interactive installation works and sculptures.
There is a line to be drawn between technology and nature, but perhaps the most interesting thing to me about Hodges’ work is that he supposes that it’s there, but the viewer gets to hazard a guess as to what would happen if we were to disconnect one from the other in these works. We often think of nature as being distinct from technology, but what happens when they merge? What are we experiencing, exactly, when we look at images of landscapes on Google, or eat a vegetable that has been modified in a lab, or wander through a virtually simulated forest via our smartphone screen and a bespoke headset?
Check out a bit about Justin Hodges’ work and bit more about his process!
YS: I’m really intrigued by your connection between modern technology and nature. Where did you initially discover this as a theme or direction you wanted to pursue?
JH: Thanks! I started in photography years ago, but in undergrad I bounced all over the place. I was then, and I’m still particularly interested in notions of the sublime, and the pursuit of it. I often look to the landscape as a start, and to romantic painting, and high modernist abstraction for inspiration. I’m interested in knowing whether or not you can achieve the same things they were after, except with the technologies of this time. I want to know if they get in the way, or if they’re just another medium to use in the pursuit of it.
YS: How do you develop your work? What is your process like in the studio?
JH: Generally, I start with an idea that’s not fully formed, and I make something that relates to that idea. It nearly always starts with the idea first though, and it’s usually garbage at this stage. It’s in the process of solving logistical issues that I feel I begin to make real progress. When things are slow, or when I’m between bodies of work, I usually make collages. These give me an opportunity to stay busy and work intuitively, but they stay hidden in most cases.
YS: Who or what are your major influences?
JH: I enjoy modernist painting, which has played a huge role in the development of my work. I’ve also ridden bmx bikes for most of my life, and the mindset associated with that culture has been incredibly beneficial. A couple of authors and photography theorists have been important also. Steve Rogennbuck is one of them, and I’m also reading a Vilem Flusser book on design at the moment. Finally, teaching forces me to be as articulate and considerate as I can be. There’s always so many more. I’ll concede that I’m mostly a product of the cool stuff I have been fortunate enough to find or have pushed my way.
YS: What did you want to be when you were a kid?
JH: Professional Bike Rider.
YS: There is an element of viewer participation involved in your work; is this something you plan? Have you ever been surprised by how viewers interpret or interact with your work?
JH: The most recent work suggests that it should be touched or used in some way. I don’t post signs or instructions, but the work sort of implies it. I’ve never consciously conceived of work that needs interaction, but it’s just sort of happened in the last couple of bodies of work. In Integrated Circuit I had a few viewers drawing things in MS Paint and looking around the hard drive to see if I’d left anything behind. Romance and The Landscape’s viewers were on the platform taking selfies. Since these works sort of blur the line between sculpture, installation, and photo documentation, I honestly couldn’t ask for more.
YS: What has been the most challenging aspect of being an artist that you’ve encountered so far, whether it’s creatively, professionally, or something else?
JH: Time always feels like the commodity that I never have enough of. It’s tough to solve problems when you’re tired. Finding a balance between work, art, and friends and family is the constant challenge.
YS: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment or moment of success so far?
JH: I’ve made some really wonderful friends through art and education who care a great deal about the world we inhabit and the influence we have on it. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that my work has gained their support and respect.
YS: You’ve only recently graduated, but is there anything you know now that you’ve completed your MFA, that you wish you would have known as an art student just getting started?
JH: I wish I had applied to more shows and residencies.
YS: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
JH: My friend Miles Turner is curating an awesome show at the Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati, which will open in February. Casey James Wilson and I are collaborating on a few works, and we’ll be exhibiting beside a small group of amazing artists. I’m jazzed about that opportunity.
You can find more information and examples of the artist’s work at justinhodgesart.com.
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