Cultivate Artists

A curated collection of artists who work with Cultivate, as well as local and regional artists.  The featured artist program at Cultivate serves to share the artist's work and process with the community, inviting them to understand how and why an artist creates the work they do, to market and promote artists, and to connect artists to each other and to our network of curators, artists, and gallery owners.  

 

These artists are curated together and represent the work that we exhibit at Cultivate.  The artists are selected in January and June, and scheduled out for the six-month period.  If you are interested in being one of Cultivate featured artists, please email hello@cultivategrandrapids.org.

Hong Huo
she/her/hers
Hong Huo

Briefly describe your work or share your artist statement


Fire(火-huo) as a material, and spiritual, which is the character my family use to represent our  family name Huo (霍). Red (红-hong) is a color of fire, blood, love, and affection. It’s the color  that embedded in my given name Hong ( 弘). 


Fire and red are the components of my name, which also unveil the true essence of who I am. As  someone living in-between overlapping layers of diverse cultures, religions, and social  systems, I’m always searching for a visually inventive and authentic expression to narrate my  personal mythology as a Chinese, Christian female in a physical and emotional sanctuary. 


I bring to life my own story through empathizing the female bodies described in fictional and  religious literatures. Threading together the female perspective in both The Dream of The Red  Chamber and The Bible, through combining the parallels of visual themes together, I tend to  create my own sacred space to meditate on the materiality of my animation process, using a  diverse body of materials such as ink, paper, and neon light, and various methods of hand-drawn  and digital animation, live camera projection, and performance, to connect myself to a deeper  reality and imagination based on the influences of the two classic literatures, but to also evoke  emotional responses and movements from other bodies. 

How do you go about beginning a new piece? Do you have it planned or is it more spontaneous? 


I like to work spontaneously. My concept comes from the making process, so I must keep making to further conceptualize what I’m doing and why I must do it. I think through my hands.  Sometimes I feel the eagerness to make an idea happen, even not knowing why or how.  However, the idea of making also comes from multiple sources of reading, researching, and living in general. My ideas come from everywhere and it’s hard to say where specifically I  gather them from. I have to say that there are a lot of works I started but never get to finished thoroughly. So not all the ideas I have are good, and through making, I realize that (lol).  

What is a barrier that you, as an artist, overcame? 


A huge barrier I have is that I’m rarely satisfied with my work. Like I said earlier, it’s hard that  when you find out an idea doesn’t work as well, or you simply cannot make it happen at the  moment. I think I’ve been learning to be okay with that. Sometime a good idea takes a long time  to be fully developed into a good piece, with the right people, in the right time. I learnt that I  need to have patience for myself to wait for the right moment and continue to work toward that.   

 

What is your go-to music when you're working on art?
I listen to a lot of Chinese new age folk/Gufeng music.  

 

What do you strive for as an artist? What form of recognition is important for you? 


I see art as a calling, almost spiritual. As an artist, I make art to seek truth from within, to connect my deeper self with what’s beyond my understanding of existence. What is the most fascinating in the artmaking process to me is when I get a glimpse of eternity in one moment— the temporary moment that I feel I’m living the fullest to the purpose of my existence. I value being recognized by those who can connect with me through my art on a very deep level, without the need of much verbal explanation. As an example, I was honored to be interviewed this summer by a Chinese art historian Dorothy Ko about my animation Melt, which was made before I came to grad school. Dorothy is someone who can see through the surface of the work I  make, and directly to the core value and intuition of why I make. She presented her research on female body and the ecology of creative destruction in China, along with my and another artist’s work at the Feminist Art History conference this year at the American University. Even it’s not the biggest accomplishment an artist can achieve, the opportunity to connect with a such a wise and knowledgeable scholar like Dorothy, gives me hope and assurance of making the kind of work I love for evoking thoughtful conversations.  

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The Image of God
neon, ink, plexiglass
2021

Images courtesy of the artist 

What advice would you share for artists? Share something that you have learned along the way. 


I believe every artist is different, but one thing I think would be valuable to all is that we should not let our work to define ourselves. The reason I say that is because I think each individual is so unique and complex, and for artists, we always rely on almost sacrificing ourselves to give birth  
to great artworks (smile). Of course, great work has cost and we have to put in the time and effort, but I think it’s also important that we know how to take care of ourselves, outside making art. Our works only reflect a little of who we are as such complex human beings, and it’s ok that the work itself is not perfect or even completed (and of course, we are never perfect either). I have learned many great lessons to accept my own imperfections as an artist and weaknesses as humans. It’s not been easy, but it’s important to know how to get along with ourselves in those times that we do not feel the most successful or completed.  


What is a work of art that is an inspiration to you? 


There are many works of art I feel inspired throughout my life. But I think I would say  Michelangelo’s Pieta is my all-time favorite since when I was young and first started to learn drawing. I think the female body and expression in Mary always has invisible influences on me in my art journey.  


Who are three working artists that you love and would recommend? 


I can only think of some of my personal friends: Tzu Lun Hwang, who is a UW MFA alumi and she’s currently in Taiwan. She is a wonderful painter and comic artist who make narrative works with monster figures based on inspiration from real life. Then Fei Pan, who’s currently an MFA  student at UC Berkeley making interdisciplinary works in-between art, science, and philosophy. 


Lastly, Esther Cho (website unavailable), a current MFA student at UW-Madison, whose work is about the unheard voice of the Asian American experience through the visible language from materials.  

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Fragment to Flourish is made with coding, design, stiching and embroidery on canvas. This is a piece made to meditate the imperfect, frangmentary moments of a season of transitions.

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Fragment to Flourish
mix media sculpture
2019

Images courtesy of the artist 

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