We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Hoth and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” by Albert Camus. This quote always reminds me that no matter how bad things get there is something inside us that is pure potential, pure light, and pure love. It’s easy to forget this when we are faced with the constant barrage of daily human tribulations. Especially during this pandemic. Even when I barely feel like standing up, I remind myself that I can still make something original and compelling that might inspire someone to do the same. No matter how things go for me in my career, what often fuels me is when another artist says that my work (or even just that I have kept working creatively) inspired them to keep going. Many works of art have done this for me. I’ve been driven to tears watching a modern dance piece or a film or listening to a transcendent song that then opens something up in me. You just need to get on the mat, sit down at the desk, or pick up the camera. It’s got to become habitual like breathing, which artmaking has become for me. John Baldessari said “talent is cheap.” What he meant was that there are a lot of talented people out there, but are you willing to show up for decades on end even when the inspiration isn’t always there and no one seems to care?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I began drawing and painting early on though I was also always interested in the biological sciences. My senior year of high school I had the most amazing mentor in my anatomy and physiology teacher. When I got to college I wanted to keep studying art, but I also got into the Occupational Therapy school. I decided not to go down that route but I still took the 5-credit cadaver anatomy class anyway. It was so fascinating. It’s funny now that I am dissecting instant film pieces in my work like a surgeon. As for my current work, I would say an overarching theme is experimentation, seeing anew, and the perpetual duality of creation and destruction. I try to step back every so often and be self critical in such a way that I might shift my creative course in order to contribute something novel to the conversation. I think the themes in art will remain the same as long as we are humans, but our approaches can be entirely new and of the time that we live in. I feel proud to have come up with several bodies of work that have an approach I have never encountered before. Right now I am making large instant film mosaics or collages that are cut and burned while each tile develops. I often feel like a scientist who has discovered a new element! All creative people have this power. It’s a cliché but the path of an artist is never easy. It’s like when you are backcountry snowboarding and you have to put down the boot path first. It’s a slog! The life of an artist is probably the most difficult path because the rewards are uncertain. This also makes the journey exciting. I would be bored making the same pictures in the same style, with the same themes, with the same technical process. I do appreciate classic photography, but for me I want to make something I have never seen before. I have all but let go of the label photographer or photography even if it has been my deep love for so many years. Like the saying goes “When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.” For me this means when you have gotten good at something, move on to what you don’t know, what might be lying in wait for you. Art making is the life path of discovery. I have put over twenty-five years of my life into this path. This life chose me. The Universe has said to me “you have to do this or you will feel hollow.” When I begin to question myself I turn back and embrace my drive to create. I’ve learned a lot of different lessons down this track that I try to pass on to my students, but we have to learn our own lessons for ourselves. You cannot pass these lessons down, but you can show how even now you are willing to fail to get to something more interesting. You can only lead by what you are willing to put out there, leave on the floor, as dancers say. Leave it all out on the floor – not just the sweat but also the suffering. Right now we all need more art to bring us through this painful era. You see a lot of people taking up creative practices – gardening, pottery, movement whatever. It’s a way to process the grief and loss of this time. I think making is for everyone and I often tell my students “Hey even if you get out of this creative laboratory and you have to take the safe job, keep making art if only for your own sanity, to process your life.” At the end of my life even if I am unrecognized and no one cares about my work, I will be able to say I put everything I had into this thing. I also want to say I am not a brand, I am a human being. My voice and desires change from project to project and this is my freedom. This is why I like to have a day job as a teacher. Though it doesn’t pay particularly well it is very rewarding to facilitate young people’s creative growth. So I have the day job and then I make the art I want on my own time. In this I am beholden to no one.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Boulder so I take friends to my favorite natural spaces like Eldo Canyon State Park, which is just a few minutes from my doorstep. The spring fed Eldo pool has been closed for a couple summers, but we would definitely go there for a dip if it was warm and the pool was open. That is probably my favorite place in Boulder county. They still have hand-painted signs and it feels like it’s been the same for decades. If they are open to taking a dance class, I’d take them to The Block which is the most friendly community space around. I started taking dance classes there with my daughter when I turned 45. It’s hard to be bad at something new at my age, but it frees me up and everyone there embraces you when you show up no matter how you do. In fact, their motto is Come As You Are. For a coffee or tea I’d take visitors to Trident. As a bookshop and coffee house it’s a community fixture and I love how you can see so many different kinds of people there. They also encourage you to put down your phone and actually talk to someone, which I love (even though I’m very introverted). I like to get margaritas at Centro because it’s so open air and you can do some good people watching. I love the weird edge of Boulder which is still hanging on. You might see some guy skateboarding down Pearl St. with a guitar and mini speaker, some mostly nude cyclists or some dude dressed like a Roman in a toga. I will sometimes jot down notes about happenings I’ve seen and it is often unexplainable. I also would take them to my favorite art spots: The Boulder Creative Collective, The Dairy, BMOCA, or wherever there is a cool public mural up at the time. I show my work with Walker Fine Art in Denver so of course we’d need to make a trip into Denver to stop by and see what is up on the walls. I also try to stop and see Denver friends’ shows so that would probably involve a visit to Leon, Rule, K Contemporary, Robischon, David B. Smith, Redline, Dateline, Lane Meyer Projects, etc. There are so many to name!
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?
The Boulder Creative Collective granted me a year-long artist residency that began in the Fall of 2019. I recently had my solo show as a culmination of this studio residency. The innovative and exciting work that came out of this residency would not exist if it weren’t for this organization and my granted studio space. The BCC have consistently held the torch high for facilitating avant garde art making in Boulder. I also listen to a lot of music that inspires and calms me. I don’t think I would have been able to survive the last several years without it. So shoutouts to: Tycho, Gold Panda, Bonobo, John Hopkins, Loscil, Four Tet, Rival Consoles, Kiasmos, and George FitzGerald to name a bunch.
Other: I also have a commercial photography site here: https://www.kevinhothphotography.com/
All images courtesy the artist and Walker Fine Art.