Briefly describe the work you do.
It’s all about relationships. The mechanics of how the tar paper feather fits to the wood wing. Or how the frame works with the cypress knee pedestal beneath it. In my art, I’m trying to create new connections between dissimilar objects. Exploring natural materials and working at combining and recombining them into new relationships. From this process, sometimes a narrative forms commenting on “work” or “waste” or “greed”. Sometimes the object may suggest a purpose or function, like a tool or a toy. And sometimes it is what it is. With the completion of these objects, the process, my process is definitely not over. The ultimate test for doneness is to bring the work into my home. Because artwork is for the home. I know immediately if the work is complete, or good, by the connections it makes with other objects in the house. The new work needs to “find a place”. It needs to work with existing art, objects and furniture. Again, it’s all about relationships. If it can’t fit in, it needs to find another home.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I started out following a familiar path artists take, I have a BFA in Ceramics and an MFA in Studio Arts. But the quest for new information has never stopped. There were the woodcarvers, the clock maker, basket weavers, painting conservators, and most recently the bread baker! I enjoy learning. Collecting new skills. Discovering new techniques. It doesn’t matter where you gather your information, be it at grad school or your neighbor who is passionate about adult coloring. It’s all good. And it all comes into play every time I face a new problem.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Working on art is hard. It’s a challenge. It requires a lot of good, positive energy and a clear mind. This is a state hard to find in the summer where there is a million things to do at our farm. I’m most productive after a good killing frost! Then you can find me either in my indoor “clean” studio or my workshop out in the barn.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Being an artist can be very isolating, especially a rural one. Jane Suddendorf, Director of Gallery 224 (Port Washington, WI), has helped me change that. I am currently in Gallery 224’s Artist in Residence program. Now, it seems, Art is all about community and making connections with people and working together with other artists and I’m loving it, even the meetings! And I’m learning all sorts of new things.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Mornings are golden.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work is still all over the map. I don’t see a common thread. If you do, please send me a note! But, at 50, I seem to have more confidence in the studio. I seem to have more patience in exploring a technique, not necessarily an idea. I have gotten quite ruthless at stopping midstream and dismissing an idea that is leading in the wrong direction.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Being around people who are completely engaged in what they are doing is inspiring. Seeing other artists’ work habits and feeling the energy of someone else’s workspace is great. But what really gets me going are found objects, objects taken out of context, raw materials, antiques and of course, music. All kinds. Almost.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
When I’m not working on art my creativity transfers into other things—making food, baking, antiquing, finding the right rock… I could stop “making art” and still feel somewhat fulfilled doing any number of things. That being said, the process of making art, when all things are going well, gives an amazing high unlike anything else.
Chris Hewitt is a sculptor who walks a fine line between art and function. He puts the viewer in a position of questioning the use or function or purpose of the object or installation. And he’s not giving out any answers.Hewitt received his Masters degree from the University of MN, Minneapolis in 2002. From there he developed an arts curriculum for the State of MN Correctional Facility in Faribault, MN where he taught for several years. After returning to WI where he was raised, he worked as a lead artist at Conrad Schmitt Studios conserving, restoring and making new statuary, paintings and mosaics. He is currently an artisan bakery at the Daily Baking Company in Port Washington, WI.Chris and his partner of 31 years live on a farm in rural WI.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.