Pollock-Krasner Award

by on June 3, 2014
A. M. HOCH, painted shard of tooth, 7mm x 5mm, ink and oil pastel, 2014

A. M. HOCH, painted shard of tooth, 7mm x 5mm, ink and oil pastel, 2014

Grateful recipient of the Pollock-Krasner grant this spring. Let’s say, terribly grateful, since at about the same time that I received notice of the award, my teeth were falling out—a whole gang of them, a veritable insurrection—so I painted on them since I had nothing else to paint on. It was a bleak period. Actually, the teeth loss was just the latest weird flowering of sickness in more than a year and a half. But things improved: Friends, landlords, doctors came through in ways that would have left even Frank Capra incredulous, and finally the Pollock-Krasner Foundation made it possible for me to actually buy paints again … and toothpaste … and a website even.

So I was flummoxed when not long ago, after I gave a slide presentation of my work to a particularly responsive and inquisitive crowd, someone asked: Your work is deeply disquieting but you seem like a very jovial person, how do the two things go together? At least that was what I understood to be the gist of it—it was said in Italian (and even translated for my benefit) but as usual here in Italy, I feel words come to me filtered through a thick, hairy sweater somehow caught between my ears, which I can’t seem to remove. But, from what I understood, it seemed like a great question—though of course I had no answer at all, so I made a little joke and have thought about it ever since. 

A. M. HOCH, painted shard of tooth.1, approx 7mm x 5mm, ink and oil pastel_2014

The truth is I feel badly that my work is often perceived as disturbing—since I am deeply soothed and comforted by my own work, I always feel a pang of sadness and freakishness, and a sense of shame, when people describe it as disturbing. (Though in fairness I should add that this particular audience seemed to genuinely appreciate the disturbance.) But there’s much about life as a human being that I find deeply disturbing and inexplicableteeth rotting, suffering souls, the quotidian injustices and cruelty … these are just the first things that spring to mind—so I’m profoundly grateful and relieved when I see art that acknowledges the feelings those experiences engender. On the other hand, as I go through the day, often feeling confused and secretly anxious—and not just when people are speaking Italian—I find making the people around me laugh a bit usually gives me a lot of comfort and joy. So, I guess one could conclude that my disquieting work and my jocular persona are equally authentic and both entirely motivated by my own search for pleasure and relief.

So, with that in mind: happy viewing … or as the Italians say: buona visione!

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