Briefly describe the work you do.
While my academic background is in painting and drawing, I work closely with photography, collage, and am drawn to working with untraditional materials, which recently has been sparkly materials like rhinestones and glitter. I either repurpose found photographs or create photographs whose subjects are domestic, and manipulate the images to create somber narratives which are often balanced with humorous or bizarre elements. While different photographic archives are utilized as source material, all of the work employs a visual language of decoration and cancellation to support reoccurring themes of death and resurrection. They evoke emotions ranging from melancholic to celebratory, leading viewers to contemplate their own personal family histories.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Growing up in Rochester, NY, I spent my first 18 years living in a 225-year-old haunted house. As young children there were ghosts that my sister and I talked to, completely unfazed, yet were tormented by others as older, more aware, teenagers. I also had a complicated and difficult upbringing. This has definitely had an influence on the subject matter of my work which can be of a haunting nature and often showcases the precariousness of family and childhood innocence. Some of the figures in my work are literally ghosts, and some represent “personal ghosts.”
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio is fairly traditional, although I don’t have the luxury of immense amounts of time to spend there like I did in graduate school to sit and think, read, or toil for long stretches. Because of this my studio practice is very efficient, and while I do spend time brainstorming and working things out, it can happen remotely. I carry a small sketchbook in my purse, as well as print small snapshot-sized photographs to sketch on top of with sharpie, which I can do in my studio or anywhere. I often solve pieces in my head while I’m driving in the car. Also, a lot of my process involves working with images in Photoshop on the computer, which again, I can do anywhere. Once the images are printed and mounted, I work in the studio more frequently to complete the surface manipulations and by that time It’s mostly execution.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I enjoy being an emerging artist and having a dialogue with the larger contemporary art world, as well as being an active artist in the local art community here in Knoxville. Being an artist can be such a self-indulgent practice, and I have learned that I need to balance that out with a career serving other artists and the larger art community. I spent years after grad school as an adjunct instructor at various community colleges, teaching young artists foundations-level skills in Drawing, Painting, Photography, and Art History. I was also there to fuel the few who had intense passions to be artists and many of my old students have gone on to BFA and MFA programs. I am now working full-time as a Gallery Manager, and enjoy promoting the careers of other artists by organizing and installing exhibits.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Because I have a full-time job, I set aside one night a week after work, and a day on the weekend for time in the studio. But, as I said before the “studio” is portable, and a state of mind that I take with me in the car or even home.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Five years ago I had finally abandoned the notions of being a painter, and embraced what I really wanted to do which was manipulate old photographs. I was just beginning to build a visual language with these new materials, and had started with what was familiar and emotionally potent: personal photographs from my childhood. Since then it has been a slowly evolving exploration of new archives of photographs, found and created, as well as pushing my manipulations of them. As of recently, I’m working with an archive of slide film images from the 1950’s and 60’s. While the imagery is still domestic and familial, they were taken during decades that I don’t relate to since I wasn’t alive yet. It has changed my treatment of them significantly, and I am having more of a formal dialogue with them, and am taking way more risks.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
The most influential artists are the ones who remind me that it doesn’t take a lot of effort for an image to make an impact. Artists like John Stezaker, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, John Baldessari, Robert Ryman, and John Pfahl, prove that important lesson to me over and over again. Then there are the mixed-media greats: Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Bourgeois, and Bruce Conner. I attribute my humor- both in my work and as a person- to the endless hours of Pee Wee Herman I watched as a kid. I can honestly say that the musician best known as Bonnie Prince Billy, and all of his early work as Palace Brothers and Palace Music has also impacted the tone of my work.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
If I wasn’t an artist, I’d probably be a psychologist. I came very close to pursuing Art Therapy as a career, but was discouraged because in 2000 when I started college it wasn’t yet an accredited field, even in New York State where I’m from. Now Art Therapy programs and jobs are popping up all over the place.
Kelly Hider was raised in Rochester, NY. While she began her artistic career focused on painting and drawing, she steadily gravitated toward working with photography, mixed media, and installation. Kelly Hider received her BFA from SUNY Brockport in 2007, and an MFA from the University of Tennessee in 2011. She has had solo exhibitions at the University of Rochester and at SUNY Brockport in Rochester, NY, The Ewing Gallery and Gallery 1010 in Knoxville, TN, and the Blackberry Farm Gallery at the Clayton Arts Center in Maryville, TN. Hider has recently gave a lecture and participated in a two-person show outside of St. Louis at the Boyle Family Gallery, at Lindenwood University, called Remnants. She is the Gallery Manager at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and resides in Knoxville, TN where her studio is located.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.