David Hooker’s art is not only beautiful, thought-provoking, and unique, it is accessible! His pottery and sculpture have brought new meaning to the art of relevance, particularly by giving back to communities in need. This is art that anyone can see, buy, enjoy and just feel good about.
Love and Water- Can you talk about how you came to make the pottery and sculptures you make today?
David Hooker- My training was in ceramics originally. When I was in undergrad, I wanted to make really big things that people could walk through and experience. I didn’t want people to just look at my art. I discovered, mainly be accident, that my desire to make those things wasn’t about making big pieces as much as it was about making functional art. Pottery has that quality to it- you can touch and feel and hold it, and it can be part of your intimate space. So I dedicated myself to making pottery, and while in grad school I started working in sculpture as well. Since then I’ve been doing both, and more recently I’ve become interested in performance and video. Both are allowing me to explore different avenues, and are exciting and terrifying at the same time. The idea of performance is great in the ways it breaks down to structure of what people consider “high art” in the sense that the audience is part of the performance, and there is the spontaneity of theater involved. This is exciting, but can also leave the artist feeling very exposed at the same time. I’m starting to make things that I’m not necessarily in control of any more as a result. I’m exploring similar themes in all of my work having to do with structures in society, thinking about who we are and how we relate to each other by how structures can both connect us and keep us apart. This has been an exciting year for me because of how my work is changing, and I’ve had to keep up mentally with what has been happening visually. So that’s been pretty cool.
L&W- What lead you to share your work with charitable causes?
DH- I don’t exclusively make work with charity in mind, but I do definitely find myself drawn to various charitable projects. One thing I wanted early on was to break down the idea that art is an elitist activity, and that one has to be a cultural elitist to get what art work is. That was one of the things that attracted me to pottery in the first place, because it was a way to make art work for everybody. It’s not particularly expensive, and it’s very accessible. That kind of work has allowed me to work on bringing people together, including charities. A lot of people can get together, spend a little bit of money and raise money for another community. Recently I did the “Empty Bowl” project with my students at Wheaton College. We took our ceramic students and made functional bowls that we sold to our Wheaton College community very inexpensively- they sold for between $5.00 and $25.00- and they got lunch with whatever they bought. The concept of the “Empty Bowl” project is to raise awareness of the need for food around the world, and how many empty bowls there are out there. So we had sponsors who donated food and coffee, and anytime someone bought a bowl or mug it was filled with lunch or coffee. We took the money we raised from selling those bowls to a local food pantry. That was an extraordinary event because between six or seven students, we made around 200 pots and sold them all to Wheaton students within two hours. I set it up as a four hour event and thought we’d sell half of what we had. It was an incredible whirlwind of excitement, and we were really moved by it.
L&W- I understand you also have done work for a school in Rwanda?
DH- That was a really great project, and it started with our church. It was too large financially for the size of our church, so had to reach out into the community. We partnered The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, since it is a Rwandan organization. I made mugs and we sold mugs and coffee to raise funds and awareness for the need in Rwanda for healing and reconciliation and education post-genocide. There was so much damage done to Rwanda that needed to be built back up. There were about 125 mugs that we sold out of in a couple of hours, which again made me feel we were able to connect communities together. I’ve done fundraisers where there are auctions for very expensive pieces of art, and it just seems like only a few people are able to participate in that and appreciate the art. This kind of fundraising is so different because of the level of accessibility.
L&W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far working with community and charity?
DH- I think the most recent “Empty Bowls” project because there was so much synergy of students, community and people in need. When the students realized they could make work that has a direct impact on the community, their excitement fed me in a way that was very gratifying to me. That has to be the most moving experience I’ve had.
L&W- Is there anything else you want people to know about your work?
DH- You can order my work from my Etsy store. A portion of the proceeds of those sales go to sponsor a child in Rwanda, so it’s for a good cause. Also, I want people to think about the fact that art isn’t necessarily about self-expression as it is about relevance. And that relevance can take on many different forms. Relevance in the art community is one kind, and then relevance to the ideas that are spinning around in society, both locally and globally, is another very thought-provoking way to think about art. There are so many different facets that come up when you can see how your work is expressing what is going on around us, and that can be a great perspective to take when we are viewing and making art.
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