Multi-media artist BETH HOECKEL spends her nights cutting and pasting together a world where all boundaries are shed, and the impossible becomes a reality that is so convincing it makes the viewer bitterly regret the laws of gravity. She attended Carver Center for Arts magnet school and the Art Institute of Chicago. Hoeckel can be found making beautiful collages in Baltimore City, USA.
DARYA KOSILOVA is the Art and Photography Editor of The Lab Magazine. She is a former painting and illustration student at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She currently lives in New York City.
DARYA KOSILOVA—Beth, why are you an artist?
BETH HOECKEL—It’s really just the way I am. I can’t help it.
DK—So you’re one of those people that like to cut up and destroy publications that someone once worked very hard to put together (kidding!) How did you first discover collage as an art medium?
BH—I don’t recall a specific moment or time when I started it, but it’s been part of my art since high school. Even in painting and drawing I would include some collage elements.
DK—I read that you sometimes hold on to scraps of imagery for years on end. Is it difficult to finally commit and make the decision to glue down a treasured image, knowing that you don’t have a copy?
BH—It used to be, but then I realized that it’s what they are for, and accepted that sometimes things will get ruined. There are always other treasures.
DK—What kind of imagery are you interested in at the moment?
BH—Emotionless faces, eyes, and mouths; mismatched objects; people’s generalized ideas of images – like how a white blob with three black dots represents a ghost.
DK—Your collages make me think of some kind of giant force approaching the Earth and all we can do is stare at its horrifying beauty. What would you do if you knew tomorrow was the end of the world?
BH—Probably go to sleep, nothing you would do would matter.
DK—You have mentioned previously that you let your intuition guide the beginning and completion of your work. What do you think your intuition is trying to tell you?
BH—I don’t think about it too much. I just keep doing different things and they naturally end up cohesive. That’s what I mean by using intuition. Maybe one day I’ll look back and realize what it means, but that isn’t really the main point for me right now.
DK—Your collage work is visually very narrative, realistic, and precise. You paintings, however, tend to be much more simplified, textured, and visually abstract. How does your intuition guide you through a painting when you don’t have ready-made imagery to work with?
BH—Painting is much more difficult because you are literally starting with nothing. I just start with colors I am drawn to and brushes and strokes that feel right. I don’t plan it out first. It just happens naturally, then the hard part is realizing when to stop. I usually overdo it, so the less-is-more approach makes it more challenging and interesting for me.
DK—In your collages and photography people are often facing the most powerful forces of nature. Tell me about your fascination with nature and its relationship to people in your work.
BH—I think it’s one of the only things that can make us stop and stare and experience awe. It’s literally all around, everywhere, and is so inspirational, but we can tend to take it for granted.
DK—After you finished your BFA you spent quite a bit of time traveling. Where did you visit and why were you drawn to these places?
BH—I think when you’re young, you will go anywhere without thinking about it too much, well I did anyway. I was very adventurous, curious, and interested in maps and geography. I just kind of went with the flow and ended up where the world took me. If someone offered me a free trip to Siberia I would have gladly taken it. My high school boyfriend and I went backpacking in Europe when we were teenagers. My schools offered many study abroad programs, so I did an exchange program in Italy, an art history course in Japan, and an artist residency in Greece. I still owe money in student loans for that but it was worth it. Actually I’ve been broke most of my life but experiencing the world is more important. I encourage any students reading this to take advantage of these programs.
DK—What was the craziest thing to happen to you while you were traveling?
BH—So many crazy things. All the craziest things in my life have happened while traveling. Probably the most fun was running around naked on Mount Fuji during a thunderstorm, and the least fun was sleeping on a park bench in Madrid or the floor of a train with no food or money.
DK—Do you think your travels have influenced the kind of work you want to make?
BH—Travels influence everything in life. I think it has made me braver and wiser about things.
DK—Being a working artist is not easy. Is that your only occupation or do you do something else on the side?
BH—No, it is not easy, but once you fully commit yourself, it gets easier. I have had a million different side jobs over the past 10 years and they all sucked and were a distraction. About four months ago I quit my restaurant job and now I am a full-time artist, finally.
DK—If you could stare at one piece of art for the rest of your life – the way the people in your collages stare at the moon – what would it be?