Works on LPP
★ MEET N‘ GREET ★
Jess Wheaton interviews Hilary Pecis
Hi Hilary! So, to begin at the beginning, what’s your first memory of making art? How, if at all, do you think your early life experiences factor into your dedication or compulsion (whichever rings truer) to make the work that you currently do?
Hello Jess. I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t drawing. My mom had a giant coffee table where she always kept crayons and paper for my brother, sister, and me. Also, there was an influential television show called The Secret City with Commander Mark (http://www.drawsquad.com/). He taught us how to draw space ships and fantastic cities. During that time the three of us received much encouragement, and therefore continued to draw. Later, I spent 7 years full time in community college taking both art classes as well as a variety of others. Somewhere within that period I decided that although my interests were all over the place, studying art was where I could continue to explore, and focus all of those curiosities. At that point I enrolled in the BFA program at CCA.
I’ve seen your work described as post-apocalyptic, and representative of new beginnings too. Do you hold a narrative in your mind as you work? I also wonder how collage first entered your work, and whether that was more of a conceptual or an aesthetic choice. I love your use of what began as photographs of specific objects in magazines because you first abstract them by cutting them up, and then refashion them into objects again, such as rock formations. It seems the method behind your intricate excavations/combinations could convey many ideas.
Yes, I do have a loose narrative that informs my work. I used to think of the landscapes as post-apocalyptic places comprised of codes and data. Now, I don’t think of them so much as ‘post,’ but rather present. The collage was first introduced purely for aesthetic reasons. I liked the chance that occurred, and the variety of colors that could be found within magazines. As goes with most aspects of my artistic practice, it took me a while to accept the suggestion of using actual images from magazines to further describe what I was trying communicate. I like the accessibility of images in contemporary media and their calculated application and infiltration into our lives. My work has been compared to the flickering of a television or a computer screen. I like that idea because of the consumption of images that exists in both media sources. Also, I think it is safe to say that television and the Internet have been experienced universally, and therefore provide an entry point into my work.
You recently received your MFA, and it seems like a lot of wonderful show opportunities and awards came your way while in grad school. Can you somehow sum up both your undergrad and grad educational experiences, maybe the difficulties and highlights, and the space in between and afterwards? Any thoughts on the "art world" and your place in it?
I received my BFA from CCA in 2006, and left for NYC shortly after. I spent a year in New York, and had a wonderful time. I was accepted into the MFA program at CCA and headed back to California with plans to return to NY after graduation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in both CCA’s BFA and MFA programs. I only wish that it wasn’t over. I had a hard time being flexible and open to trying new things while in the grad department, however, in the month before graduation I began experimenting a bit more. At that time I felt really ready to begin my graduate studies, but my thesis was already turned in and school was pretty much over.
In regards to opportunities and accolades, yes, there were some presented to me during and after my time there. CCA was ranked very highly in the nation for fine arts graduate programs. The resources provided and connections made are extraordinary. This past summer I had a solo show at Triple Base Gallery in SF, which went very well. Also this summer, I had work in group exhibitions at galleries including Catherine Clark in SF, Morgan Lehman in NYC, EbersB9 in Chicago and at the University of Texas, San Antonio.
On another note, though, I was just speaking with my friend Jana Flynn, who graduated with an MFA from Parsons in 2009. We both agreed that, although our educations were tremendous for the introduction to new ideas and inspirations, the naivete in our art-making has been lost. It seems that we will forever have the nagging voice of grad-school-speak in the backs of our heads, questioning our every decision.
All in all I don’t know where I will end up in the art world. It is a very interesting/exciting/frightening time in art for a few reasons- the most obvious being the financial meltdown. So many galleries are closing, institutions are losing their funding, collectors are cutting back, and yet grad programs have received more applicants than years past. Hopefully all of this translates to fat-trimming, and more compelling work being made.
How would you describe your home city of San Francisco to someone who had never been here? Are there other places in this world that are important to you, or really great in your opinion, or that maybe even inform the landscapes you create?
San Francisco is really a wonderful city for artists to live in. It is so small in size, yet packed with inspiration. You can’t throw a rock without hitting an amazing restaurant, art gallery, park, or music venue. The city is both aesthetically beautiful, and culturally vibrant.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to drive cross-country with my father on my way to New York and fell in love with the Southwest. Utah and Arizona had some of the most epic landscapes I have ever seen. I would like to spend some time in a residency in either of those places just to look at rock formations. Also, I miss New York terribly, but don’t think I will be moving back. I would like to have a home in both SF and NYC, but that seems highly unlikely. As for now, SF is a wonderful and nurturing city for me to reside in.
Who are your top few most inspirational people, living or dead, and why?
I have known a few people who work with such passion and fervor that they emit a sort of energy that transfers to the folks around them. I find both my brother and my boyfriend to be incredibly inspiring. My brother James, who lives in London, travels around the world styling hair for photo shoots and runway shows. He is one of the top people in his field and he is not yet 30 years old. When he decides that he wants to pursue something, he goes at it like his life depends on it. And Andrew, my boyfriend, is a painter, and inspires me for many of the same reasons. His work ethic has got him many accolades and exhibitions all over the world. He keeps many notebooks in which he carries all of his secret notes for formulating his masterpieces. And the best part about the two of them is how humble they are.
What’s a typical day like for you, what pays the bills, and what would you change about that equation if you could? And lastly, what are you most excited about right now?
Bills? Just kidding. To be honest, all of my student loans have not come in yet, so I don’t really know what my monthly bills will be. As for now, I spend about 6 days a week in the studio. I usually leave my studio around 7, head home, eat dinner, and then work a little more while watching TV. My boyfriend does the same thing, so it makes for a nice evening. I do have a job working 2 nights a week at a restaurant in the mission called Spork. That combined with whatever art sales I have pays for my very low overhead lifestyle. (Or at least I think it does… we’ll find out in January when the rest of my school loans show up.)
I have a couple group shows coming up in the next few months- one in LA and the second in Stockholm. Other than that I am really excited about some animations that I have been attempting. I am still climbing the learning curve, and therefore the videos are not where I want them to be quite yet, but hopefully soon.
Hilary Pecis creates landscapes influenced by Internet, television and other media sources. With a focus on the interchangeability of images, Pecis extracts and reassembles them, drawing attention to the conditioning capacity of the media’s overwhelming supply of information. Hilary received both her BFA and MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She has exhibited her work across the US and Europe, at such galleries as Roberts and Tilton in Los Angeles, Galleria Glance in Turin, Morgan Lehman in New York, Samson Projects in Boston, and Guerrero Gallery and Catherine Clark in San Francisco