In life my experience has always been that there is no better motivator than yourself. I was given the opportunity to sit down and talk at length with acclaimed artist Robert Hodge and got my understanding confirmed. In what I can only describe as a truly inspiring story of a man who used the examples set by his family and his own grounded approach at life to pursue a dream. A dream that could have ended several ways, but do to both drive and ambition saw his goals come to fruition. The works of Robert Hodge are both grass roots and resourceful in the sense that he takes what is found in his surroundings and creates both beauty and emotion. With his heart so closely tied to Hip Hop, it can only be fair to say that his work is a sort of visual version of the cultures influence. A grand creation from humble beginnings that culminate in his work.
Ask any artist and they’ll tell you the art world is not an easy one to navigate. As is true to most things, there are ups downs and inconsistencies. In Mr. Hodge’s case persistence and drive have seemed to pay off in allowing him to do what he loves full time. Don’t get the message confused. He is as much a community figure as he is an artist, as most of his works are social commentaries on the black condition in America and Houston (his home town).
We spoke with him about his art and his aspirations to expand beyond the canvas to film and music. He has a music compilation on the way titled 2 ½ years. Like his art the project is deeper than audio it intends to convey a bigger message. That message being grounded in our history as well as the present. But lets let him elaborate on himself.
1. You have this way of putting history in your art, but not (in my opinion) in an off putting way. Do you do this intentionally with your audience in mind or is it just a flow that comes together ?
Its very intenional. My work is based in music and history and I appreoach the work with the intention everytime to have a piece of history that is crucial and most often hidden from the world. Most likely it will be African American history which I consider American History.
2. We spoke a bit about our humble beginnings. Do you think that hunger and drive you had at the beginning still motivates you or has it evolved?
The hunger still motivates me. We spoke in length about self motivation and this theory of “man vs man” in the process of creating. I want to leave a body of work that can inspire and ignite in the audience a true sense of their worth and beautiful culture exsisting long before and after “slavery”. Being a product of the hip hop culture I had prime examples of young black people taking their avaliable resources and making something magnificent out of their circumstances.
3. I like how you use salvaged items in your work. As you described it’s like the use of samples in
hip hop. Do you think the energy from those items adds another element to your work?
Yes , i believe in energy and energy can be transferred into things.. The items and images I use somehow commuincate, and I just stay open to hear and recieve the vision. Its also like if your grandmother gave you a necklace and said your grandfather wore it during WWII and now you feel this energy when you wear it. when you know things orgins it changes the perception.
4. When we spoke you had an expectation that you plan on having longevity in your passion. How does music and film help with this?
As a artist I have a mission statement, that makes it bigger than just paintings.. This mission makes me a interdisplinenary artist and its a simple mission.. bring art to the people and with that Ill bring the art in any form that will get to the people in a real and relevant way.
5. Tell us a bit about your 2 ½ years project, and a little history on Juneteenth for those that don’t know.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This news came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. “2 1⁄2 Years: The Juneteenth Story LP” will break this story down along with a soundtrack by local and nationally known musicians.
6. Do you have any other projects we should look out for?
I have some more exhibitions planned and a book Im working on for either the end of the year or 2017.
7. Some artists create very emotional pieces. Your projects are not just emotional though. They seem to be a sort of social commentary. How intentional is this?
Nina Simone said it best..
u can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”
8. I think that’s a major draw to your work is the tangible honesty of your projects. Is that a goal when you create or is it more free form?
Yes the work needs to be beautiful, intellitectual, layered and relevant.
9. Where do you see your self creatively in the future?
I see myself having no limits and boxes and being creative in any sense I choose.. It might not be in painitngs anymore.. I might not be in America, but know Im somewhere cooking up something creative thats trying to inspire and promote self awareness!
10. In closing… Any advice for other artists?
CONSISTECY is a major key to success.. dont stop.