My name is Nate Hodge. I’m an artist living and working out of Brockport, NY, a village situated on the periphery of the periphery of the art world. For a few reasons this works well for my practice: first is the connection to cities and the people working within them, second is the physical distance from the cities which acts to impose isolation and the internal focus that goes along with it. I like having the ability to be socially present one moment and then travel ten minutes and find places where I can be alone and disconnected. Being able to find physical evidence of the effort and industry of past generations alongside present inhabitants brings into question the nature of time and has informed how I work and what I’m trying to bring out of my pieces.
I first started drawing to illustrate stories I would write as a kid, usually talking animals or elaborate battle scenes. The first paintings I remember doing were from postcards my Dad had of his hometown Thiells and portraits of Eastern Europeans I found in National Geographic. In some shape or form I have been making since then all the way up to the present, it just went in different directions. Sometimes the creative process was focused in the studio and other times it was trying to find similar processes in more practical tasks at day jobs. I graduated with my BFA from SUNY Brockport in 2013 and received my MFA from the University of Buffalo in 2015.
Since 2012 I have been developing a non-objective painting style that combines physical, practical constraints and working elements I feel like exploring onto a surface or into an environment. For the most part I have been making work with a mixture of donated/found house-paints and a small selection of aerosols and acrylics. The mediums are dictated by outside influence, either environmental guidelines imposed by an institution or in the form of the types of paints left behind by a collaborator on a larger project. There is a challenge in making with what you have immediately available or with mediums selected by others and it has become a central tenet to my work. The combination of external/internal influences of scale, medium, time, and palette constraints all become parameters to work within and bounce off of, pushing me in different directions than if I had remained with one medium I had selected and was comfortable with.
Working in a non-objective fashion allows me to delve deeper into questions I have about movement, time, peoples’ relationships with space and how these look explored on a single surface. I like leaving anchors to universal shared experience and locations without dictating to a viewer what it is that they should be seeing. The concept behind my abstract work is to move beyond a single voice narrative, there is no specific communication I’m trying to get across but rather encourage viewers to develop their own interpretations. Recently my studio work has been about establishing more definitive links to direct experiences. My piece for the Human Figure exhibit is one in a series of portraits that attempts to create a portrait the way memory might, recalling details while obscuring or deleting others.
The series I’m currently working on takes this exercise further and is based on a number of photographs I took on a visit to Tahawus Tract in Essex County, a continuation of the exploration of memory as filter and subjective mediator between the present and past. Within the pieces, colors are amplified, certain details are left out and others are accentuated the same way that continued reflections on places and people become further abstracted from the original experience. The Tahawus Tract series is about playing with space and time, starting with the experience of traveling through and abandoned group of cottages and seeing how they have been slowly reclaimed by the surrounding forest. There is the impact the buildings originally had on the area, the way the area has responded, and then my reactions to the place. In physical locations like this the borders between the past and the present become hazy and time seems capable of moving in different directions.
For me, this current body of work is about questioning that blurring of borders, going against the need for everything to fit into neat and tidy, easily defined categories because I don’t think that people operate that way. The 20th century saw a cultural/institutional push toward efficiency and speed, the importance of streamlined movement traveled from the workplace and into personal lives, but at what cost? I’m working against the need for efficiency, factory-style production, and compartmentalization through my process and finished pieces. I think we are inefficient and messy but its those tendencies and the luxury of exploring them that can lead to beautiful and inimitable moments.
Stop by Main Street Arts to see Nate’s painting “Water Babies Tertiary” in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). Follow him on Instagram at @masiori.