We had the good fortune of connecting with Grace Hoag and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Grace, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I chose to be an artist one summer when I visited an art market in Denver; I was looking through a woman’s artwork prints and she started a conversation with me, and asked if I was an artist. I was 16 and unsure about my direction in life and where I wanted to be, and my answer reflected that insecurity. She wasn’t satisfied: you either are an artist, or you’re not! I decided then that I was. I started to focus more on my artwork at school and worked on honing my technical skills in drawing and painting in my AP Studio courses. During my senior year of high school I worked five hours each day in the art classroom, and clocked in around 25 hours of work each week. I kept a daily sketchbook. I completed AP Studio twice and received high scores on both portfolios, and this helped me to earn credit for university. My teacher, Lisa Adams, told me that she’d make a painter out of me. She did; at least, I let her. I applied to study at the University of Northern Colorado in 2015 and started school August 2016. I had about one semester of credits already finished from high school classes and I began work immediately to progress through the school of Art and Design. I took courses in ceramics, printmaking, photography, jewelry, arts entrepreneurship, business administration, and most importantly- painting, with my excellent professor Lauren Eisen. I worked as a Gallery Assistant under the wonderful Pam Meadows and learned about how galleries and exhibitions work, which empowered me to apply to shows and exhibit my artwork more frequently in a professional setting. I graduated in December 2019 with a degree in Art and Design with an emphasis in Painting, Arts Entrepreneurship Certificate, and Minor in Business Administration. I gained many of the skills I needed to start a small business selling my artwork online. I graduated with a massive portfolio of paintings, a website, and business savvy that helped me to launch my business in February 2020. I reached over $1,300 in sales in 7 months, and I hope to continue to grow this business so that my art is self-sustaining. I am one of three emerging artists to have been awarded the Create Award Residency with Art Gym Denver and I am currently working on larger paintings using the provided studio space and materials. I will be part of a group exhibition, estimated now to be in April 2021, to show the work I complete during this residency. Being an artist, and involved in the arts, has been so important to my growth as a person. I have connected with so many wonderful people and have worked alongside amazing young artists. I am excited to make art for the rest of my life, and I look forward to seeing where my creative career will take me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m including my current artist statement here to help discuss my art: “I make acrylic and mixed media paintings on canvas that explore themes of mental illness and the processes of coping and healing. I use the painting process to better understand my anxiety disorder. The paintings are psychologically large and heavy; this element dominates, skewing one’s sense of stability in body and mind. I consider my art-making practice to be a productive activity that I use to reduce anxiety. There is research to show that anxiety can be released through repetitive motions; this works by distracting the conscious brain which dilutes aggression to calm, which I achieve through painting, drawing, embroidery, and sewing. Through these media I explore the relationship between color and emotions. The colors of paint and fibers that I work with tend to be pastel or vibrant, but by thinly layering them over days and weeks I create color mixes and textures that evoke complex emotions. I use a meditation statement or key word while I work to imbue the paint with memory of that feeling. My artistic process, like recovery, is back and forth: reground and repeat.” My work is a lot about vulnerability; I live with chronic major depression and an anxiety disorder, and this is difficult to deal with everyday, and even harder to talk and make artwork about. I am privileged to have been able to go to university and gain access to free therapy and mental health services that allowed me to get a diagnoses and treatment. I hope that I can contribute to a larger understanding of mental illness by being open and vulnerable about it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I just moved to Fort Collins, CO, and I haven’t had much opportunity to explore because of COVID-19. Arts business are having a difficult time staying open. Some of my favorite places so far that I’ve been able to enjoy are: the Museum of Art Fort Collins (I volunteer here once a week!), Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House, and the Alleycat Coffee House. In Denver, I enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gym Denver, Redline Contemporary Arts Center, the Denver Art Museum, and Blue Pan Pizza.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Lauren Eisen: painting professor, mentor, someone who taught me to think conceptually and encouraged and allowed me space to process emotions through art-making and color, https://www.laureneisenart.com/
Lisa Adams: art teacher, mentor, someone who loves me and made me go to art school, http://ladams7art.weebly.com/
Pamela Meadows: Gallery Director, UNC Galleries, mentor, supervisor, someone who pushed me to be the best I possibly could, https://cargocollective.com/pammeadows
Austin Huber: partner, roommate, writer, helps me pay the bills on time and loves me dearly; https://hallwaysoftrees.wixsite.com/cathedrals
Nancy Friday & Brent Hoag: parents, people who encouraged me to go to university and gave me the resources I needed to thrive
Grace Hoag Headshot: taken by Cassidy Hansen, used with permission All other images are my own of my artwork.