Artist Philip Hartigan


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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Six of the Best, Part 30: Donna Hapac

Continuing the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to each artist. Today’s interviewee is Donna Hapac, an artist from Chicago who makes intricate sculptures from natural materials, twine, and pigment, that extend up from the floor or out from the wall in a process of improvised growth. You can see more of her work here.

Figure 8/Infinity ©2011 21” x 16” x 43” Reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain
Figure 8/Infinity ©2011  –  21” x 16” x 43”  Reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain
PH: What medium/media do you chiefly use,
and why? 

DH: I primarily use natural materials, such as reed, cane, and waxed linen. I like their flexibility and resilience. I initially was drawn to painting and drawing, which I pursued for many years. Then I discovered fiber art about 25 years ago and was very much taken with the idea of building forms out of these materials. They are drawings in space and containers of meaning. The forms, structures, and patterns that I find in nature inspire me. My process is very meditative and intuitive.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

DH: I have three works in progress. One sculpture I just finished evokes herons without being a realistic portrayal. One piece I am still completing is more abstract, a swooping twisting form. The third piece is a new move for me. I am designing a wall installation that I will have fabricated out of aluminum.

"Three Waders," 2013, 34" x 26" x 17," reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain
“Three Waders,” 2013, 34″ x 26″ x 17,” reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain
PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

DH: I am always surprised when I am creating a new piece because the work always changes somewhat during the making. I generally start with a rough idea of what the piece will be like. As I work with the materials, sometimes they don’t want to do what I originally was expecting. That is often because the materials are flexible and not totally rigid and have a “mind of their own.” When I am building a form, it might start leaning to one side and I decide to capitalize on that tendency–maybe exaggerate it or compensate for it. It usually makes it more interesting that the image I had in my mind. The work then seems more alive to me. For example, when I started on “Figure 8/Infinity,” I only knew that I was going to create a cantilevered form off of the wooden base. As I worked, I realized that I needed to turn it back on itself for structural reinforcement.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

DH: I have started drawing more when developing my ideas. I have noticed that the drawing I am doing is influencing the sculptures. Other activities that feed my creative process are gardening, bird watching, and hiking.

"Double Loop," 2012, 18" x 28" x 14," reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain
“Double Loop,” 2012, 18″ x 28″ x 14,” reed, wood, waxed linen, wood stain
PH: What’s the first ever piece of art you remember making?

DH:  As a child – maybe 5 or 6 years old – I decided I wanted to make a series of related pictures of a swimmer, like in a storyboard or film strip. I took a length of toilet paper which was already divided into squares that suited my idea and I drew it with crayons.

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that’s meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

DH: I need to make stuff. It is an important way for me to respond to my experiences.

If you liked this interview, and you’d like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.