more tim hawkinson…
i finally finished the curatorial statement for our show… here it is:
People have always interpreted their environment by measuring themselves against it. The oldest units of measure were based on the body: the foot (12 inches) was originally the length of a man’s foot and the fathom was the length of an arm span from fingertip to fingertip. The inch was the width of a man’s thumb, and in many languages, the word for “inch” and “thumb” are still the same.
Despite scientific understanding of the vastness of the cosmos, and perhaps because we have yet to encounter more intelligent life forms, humans tend to interpret the universe from a position of centrality. Tim Hawkinson’s work is compelling because he exploits that proclivity, using the human body—most often his own—to point out our presumptions and hubris. Thumbsucker, a crater-pocked moon made of casts of the artist’s puckered lips with a space-walking astronaut made from casts of his thumb and fingers, pokes fun at our self-importance by equating our efforts to explore and understand the nature of the universe to baby steps.
Hawkinson is a master at conjuring materials into extraordinary objects that are uncannily like something entirely different. One of his most famous pieces is a bird’s skeleton made from his own fingernail clippings. In this exhibition, dried coconut meat mimics a stone arrowhead, Google Earth images of the ocean become denim jeans, and brown paper bags replicate the scales of a pinecone or a decaying leaf. He takes kitchen scraps, materials from Home Depot, or whatever the universe throws at him (Man of Sorrows is a basketball hoop made of materials that were blown into his backyard by a storm), and transforms them into meditations on social issues, art history and philosophical quandaries.
Beyond imagery or material, look to Hawkinson’s manipulation of scale for meaning. Odalisque, though modeled on a small decaying leaf in Hawkinson’s garden, is an enormous sculpture made from the sprinkler system ripped from Hawkinson’s neighbor’s lawn and dozens of paper shopping bags. Nature, he seems to say, quietly and effectively disposes of its waste; humans, on the other hand, create refuse at a scale and in such volume that it must be confronted. This artwork is much larger than your body = this problem is too large to ignore.
Averaged Vitruvian Man is Hawkinson’s homage to Leonardo’s ideal male figure, the symbolic illustration of the human body as the bridge between the earthly and divine. Hawkinson’s self-portrait disrupts the paradigm, making every body part the same scale—every finger and toe is the same size as the head, the torso, the thigh and forearm. In so doing, Hawkinson addresses the futility of both seeking a perfect human form and the search for order or significance where there is none.
Butt-head Lens Microscope is Hawkinson’s rendering of an instrument used to make the imperceptible visible. The convex, concave and Fresnel lenses of Hawkinson’s “microscope” are cast from the curves of his own skull and butt cheeks. No viewer, he points out, can escape the baggage they bring to the examination of anything they look at. Science is no exception. Yet like the astronaut exploring the cosmos, art allows us to expand our point of view, and see ourselves and the universe from a new perspective.
tim hawkinson’s show “garden variety” runs through the 7th of may 2016.