The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 20: ASSASSINATION: Megan Hildebrandt, Artist Represented by Iao PROJECTS

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Megan Hildebrandt: Boom, Bust, Bang!, 2009, performance piece. Courtesy of Iao PROJECTS.
Megan Hildebrandt at Fort Worden State Park at Port Townsend, Washington. Courtesy of Facebook.

Megan Hildebrandt is one of the most creative souls I have met on the planet. Combining her interest in historical investigation and with it, paintings based on history, with innovative performance art projects, she has become an innovative force within the contemporary art world. Recently Hildebrandt was heading to the Vermont Studio Center for a residency when I had the chance to speak with her about her mind-bending experiences.

Her historical and expressionist paintings are full of delight and profound with combined with a incisive redaction of historical moments. She is unafraid to delve into those private moments of major characters in American history such as Francis Scott Key and look closely at how a postmodern artist, such as herself, can relate back to those essential turning points in history with an ironic twist. After all, both she and I enjoy some fine storytelling here.

If you have any questions about Hildebrandt’s artwork, feel free to contact her gallery Iao PROJECTS at (801) 336-0924 or at shadna@gmail.com.

So on to the show and here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng: What are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your visual eye?

Megan Hildebrandt: I don’t have tv.  I like going to baseball games.  I read all the time, mostly history based books like about something small like salt or tea, or social-science based books like No Logo. I have not gone to any art shows recently, but did find a book of photos taken in Mississippi during the Great Depression.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Baltimore or Denver will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within Balitmore or wherever you are located?

Megan Hildebrandt: I don’t really read art world journalism.  I read mostly social commentaries and history books.  I think that it is very hard for me to access the “current state of contemporary art within” any given place, and I know that I am supposed to be interested and concerned with it as a contemporary artist myself…. I guess I would say that I pass. I have enough trouble being current on world news, and find reading/listening to the news a more effective use of my time at the moment.  I am sure that will change when I go to grad school in the fall, and am actually expected to be up on the “art world”, whatever that is.

qi peng: Recently you won a residency grant to the Centrum Foundation located in Port Townsend, Washington. What was the experience like and how did you incorporate the local history of the area into your artwork and performance pieces? What were the goals of “Boom, Bust, Bang! A Questionably Accurate History Lesson On Fort Worden and Port Townsend?” How do you incorporate humor into the final work itself? What are some of your experiences with other residency programs?

Megan Hildebrandt: Being a resident at Centrum was great- a lot more socially isolated, serene, and in nature than I have been in other residencies I have gone to.  Boom, Bust, Bang! Was an alternative, historically-based, funny powerpoint comprised of paintings, drawings, and performance documentation that drew on local port townsend and fort worden military history.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history?

Megan Hildebrandt: I have no idea how the art world will change in reaction to the current economic recession, but I do know that its hard to sell work right now.  It would be great if the de-emphasis on selling pushed artists to pursue more risky projects that developed and progressed them as individuals rather than focusing on making work that sells.

qi peng: How has your cooperation with your gallery Iao PROJECTS helped out with the direction of your work? (Original question: How has your cooperation with your gallery Iao PROJECTS helped out with the direction of your work? Has gallery representation boosted your artistic career and your ability to pursue more larger scale pieces? How do you feel that the contemporary art world differs in Maryland, where the Creative Alliance at the Patterson is located, than in New York or Los Angeles? Do you have any advice for emerging BFA or MFA students who completed their degree recently and are ready to enter into the gallery system formally?)

Megan Hildebrandt: To be honest, it hasn’t impacted the direction of my work at all.

qi peng: Your large-scale works on paper and paintings reflect an ongoing concern with the way that you attempt to deconstruct the commonplace view of selected historical events as well as the mingling of fact and fiction. What is the overall political and sociological thrust of your paintings? (Original question: Your large-scale works on paper and paintings reflect an ongoing concern with the way that you attempt to deconstruct the commonplace view of selected historical events as well as the mingling of fact and fiction. In what ways does your artwork reflect these concerns and tensions? Why do you think that our historians attempt to control the way public think about enormous historical events? Is your artwork focused on this form of historical whitewashing that we experience each and every day? What is the overall political and sociological thrust of your paintings? In what way is fiction indistinguishable from fact? Who defines what is a fact in our lives?)

Megan Hildebrandt: I like to use my paintings as jumping off points for conversations with others about their history.  I like to use rumors and anecdotes that others tell me about the history of their towns, and combine that with the historical research I do about the place.  I think both are equally important.  I also feel that humor is extremely important, because when people are laughing they relax more and may learn better.  Usually, my paintings and drawings are used in performances and I talk to them as they are projected on a wall.  In my most recent historical performance in Port Townsend, the characters in my projected drawings all had different accents and personalities. These characters included coyotes, a ferry boat, and a union army general from the civil war.

qi peng: As a graduate of the BFA program at the University of Michigan, what were those educational years like? (Original question: As a graduate of the BFA program at the University of Michigan, what were those educational years like? How was life in the studio like back then? Did you have any influential professors or students during that time and what was their impact on you and your work? How did you develop your current style of darkly humorous paintings that mix up various characters of Americana with unexpected persons such as yourself that attempts to research an alternative version of history?)

Megan Hildebrandt: I was very lucky to attend U of M in undergrad, because their program is totally interdisciplinary and very concept-driven.  Everyone had two years of foundational studies, and we all had to learn everything-welding, wood carving, web design, sewing, drawing.  I was most drawn to costume and performance; we were pushed to explore the concepts we were interested through whatever mediums we felt were appropriate to our idea.

qi peng: Do you consider yourself a feminist artist and if so, in what way does your artwork reflect your themes and subject matter? (Original question: Do you consider yourself a feminist artist and if so, in what way does your artwork reflect your themes and subject matter? What specific women’s issues do you prefer to examine under the microscope of your approach to a given historical moment? What sort of research do you do before you start the painting? What do you believe is the position of women within today’s society?)

Megan Hildebrandt: I do not identify as a feminist artist, no.  I am interested in ignored or overlooked populations and places. I like the gaps and absences in history, too. Obviously, women sometimes fall into these categories.

qi peng: What is your opinion on juried competitions such as New American Paintings and curated artists registries such as The Drawing Center‘s Viewing Program or White Columns in the development of a young artist’s career? (Original question: What is your opinion on juried competitions such as New American Paintings and curated artists registries such as the Drawing Center’s Viewing Program or White Columns in the development of a young artist’s career? Do you feel that being judged by “officials” or “art referees” help to create a strong reputation for the artist’s work? What elements do you think are necessary to make a particular artwork strong and communicative? With the rise of online curated galleries such as Ugallery, do you think that those type of galleries are a good stepping stone into the larger art network?)

Megan Hildebrandt: The most exposure one can get is great.  The more people that see your work, the better.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Baltimore or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? (Original question: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Baltimore or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?)

Megan Hildebrandt: In Baltimore, I like to go to Fort Mchenry or the Enoch Pratt Library or the bus stop to hang out.

qi peng: Would you consider your painting a form of alternative historical documentation and how are these ideas portrayed within your work? (Original question: Would you consider your artwork a form of statement about sociology and the way that humans relate to both their public and personal histories through relationships between each other? How does this fit into the political reality of today’s world? Would you consider your painting a form of alternative historical documentation? What are the your insights on mankind’s relationship between the present and his or her past or future? How are these ideas portrayed within your work?)

Megan Hildebrandt: See answer to number 6.

qi peng: You have executed various performance art pieces including “Do Your Steps” as well as “Blue Light Special.” How do these works relate in the context of your historical paintings? (Original question: You have executed various performance art pieces including “Do Your Steps” as well as “Blue Light Special.” What is the origin for these works and what was the process from start to finish? What are the underlying themes which tie your performance works together? How do these works relate in the context of your historical paintings?)

Megan Hildebrandt: My reenactment performances are the most important, exciting kind of work I do.  They are often a continuation of ideas that come up in my drawings, paintings, and conversations with locals in the community.  The performances are research-driven and often reliant on the participation of the “audience”- in the case of step scrubbing, those rowhouse owners whose doors I knock on; in the Blue Light project, those who I am filming and “protecting”.

qi peng: Is there anything else that you wish to share with readers here or fans of your artwork?

Megan Hildebrandt: [no answer]

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 1:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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