A Conversation with Artist-in-Residence Juan Hinojosa

Earlier this week we caught up with our Artist-in-Residence Juan Hinojosa to chat about his time in residency, rediscovering a favorite material from childhood and his upcoming solo exhibition on December 17 ‘Blonde Ambition’.


In studio with JuanMFTA: Now that you are closer to the end than the beginning of your residency at MFTA, can you share with us what you were looking to gain from this experience?

JH: When I first arrived, I thought ok well obviously I’m going to attack the paper area, and just get all the posters, all the books and just cut stuff out. Collage, collage, collage! But then I saw the fabrics and that inspired me to create works on canvas covered in fabrics and that inspired a new series of works. Naturally, for some reason, it made sense to add objects on top of and around the panels. It’s kind of leaning toward this painting meets collage, meets sculpture, meets ultra-pieces. So it’s evolved in the four months of being here now.

MFTA: At MFTA you get to explore some new materials, for instances fabrics. Going forward, you’re going to be without the free stuff. So with the fabric, would you be ok with turning your aesthetic a bit grungier? Do you keep the aesthetic, do you keep the materials, and how does it change?

JH: Well I think the fabric part is weird and a little emotional in some ways. We grew up really poor. My mom made everything, our school uniforms, our Halloween costumes, my sister’s dresses; so my mom has a tons of fabric in the house and a couple of years ago she got arthritis and stopped making stuff. We always ignored it but now with the fabric here at MFTA, I thought it would be kind of fun (in the future) to make pieces of the fabrics that my mom has kept over the years.

MFTA: Often people have an idea of reuse or found objects as really abused or rundown. Your work seems to disrupt that narrative. How do you view reuse materials?

JH: I’ve always thought that what I find on the street, in MFTA, or at home, although it is trash and it is discarded items, they can still have their Cinderella moment and become this glorious object again. I like the idea of making trash into gold. Having an object be more than what they used to be is special. I mean it’s kind of the American idea of be more than what you can be or are supposed to be. So I want to put that forth in the pieces, and I think the luxury part of it all is again, we grew up really poor and always wanted things that we couldn’t afford and this is my way of being luxurious or having luxury around me without having to pay for it. Because lord knows I can’t afford it.
Juan pic cropped
On Blond Ambition:

JH: In society I feel like blonde women have this luxury of saying and doing what they want to do and having this freedom about themselves. That is awesome! I think that women can get away with certain things that men cannot and I can’t help but think about pop culture, women, fashion and the blonde people that I’ve grown up around. So in my view of all of this, I thought to create a series of works that glorify women and their strengths and perhaps add in a couple of jabs, bits of irony and you know… a little tongue-in-cheek moments. I want the viewer to decipher it for themselves. But again being raised by a woman and I have a sister, you can’t help but feel a connection toward women and I have a tremendous amount of respect for all they do.

MFTA: With the title of your exhibition “Blonde Ambition”, there is an overwhelming serious tone and then there is a bigger point that you are trying to make, but all of your work has to be taken with a certain level of lightness, to really grasp it.

JH: If I were a magician, I would show you the trick. I’m in no way going to tell you how I did it. I think the viewer’s job is to figure out and play detective. It makes it a little more fun. If I told you how the Hunger Games ended when you only saw the first film it would be mean! The title, of course, references Madonna and her concert. Growing up in New York with a sister and pop culture all around you in the 80’s, you cannot help but have heard her music or about her. She is one of the ultimate blondes next to good ‘ol Marilyn.

MFTA: So we’re talking about magic, part of what the viewer is participating in, why we fall for the trick is that we want to believe that magic is real. So what is it for you in the work, what’s the magic that we are looking for to be real in your work?

JH: Wow, I think the magic I want the viewer to see would be beauty in things that are trash and beauty in things that they previously had in their hand and thrown away. I want the viewer to take a step back and learn to see. I want them to put the visual clues together and follow me down the rabbit hole. All the items you see before you (on canvas or paper) are all recognizable and in some way the art works have been around them this whole time.

‘Blonde Ambition’ is on view in the MFTA Gallery December 17, 2015 – April 1, 2016.