Recently, Heather from our "Craftland Crew" had the chance to visit Deborah Hickey in her studio and interview her regarding her work! We got to learn about Deb's process and inspiration, along with her thoughts on being a collage artist.
You call Providence home! I would love to hear what inspired you to move to Providence, and what endures and inspires you to live in the creative capital.
I moved to Providence in 2003 to buy a home and to be around some good friends. I loved the people and the architecture and enjoyed how small and comfortable the city was.
Initially I photographed the landscape and architecture of Providence and Rhode Island and made photo collages. Rhode Island is also home to many wonderful artists and living in Providence has provided me an opportunity to get to know some artists on a personal level.
Your block prints of Rhode Island landmarks and scenes are a great seller in the shop. I would love to hear more about how you create the scenes, your process etc.
I usually start the pieces with one of my photographs, which then is processed in photoshop or a photo app to make a sketch (since my drawing skills are not great.) Then I work on the image for awhile, sometimes adding images from somewhere else before printing (reversed) on to film which can then be transferred to collaged elements on wood, paper or fabric using a DASS medium.
As a collage artist you are constantly taking other people's work that catches your eye, or "found art" and reinterpreting it to make it your own. Would you please expand on how you take photos/imagery out of context, build a new context, a new world for them, and how you honor what catches your eye!
I don’t think of it as “taking other people’s work” as much as borrowing images already out in the world and then putting them together in another context or story. When I went to Berlin, I spent a lot of time photographing the street art/public art because it was unlike anything I ran into in the US. I collected these pieces made by other artists to take home and reintroduced them into a new story or image. In a sense they were 'found’ images that I was able to reinterpret to say whatever I wanted to say. When I know the street artist I will credit them in the piece.
I would love to hear more about your process creating your pet portraits.
The pet portraits were started during the pandemic. I was playing with some pet photos on my phone and digitally collaging them with some found photos of portraits of men and women from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. They were quite fun to do. I then asked friends if they’d like me to do some portraits of their pets and it kind of took off from there. It lasted the entire pandemic and it was a great way to stay connected as well as to collaborate with others. I would give people advise on taking better photos and then ask them to write a brief statement about the personality of their pets. I would then search through found photographs to find the right one.
I would love to hear more about your collaborations and conversations you've created around your art.
Collaborating is having a conversation with another artist. A few years ago I collaborated with Seth McCombs for a show. I had made about 12 collages and asked him to write something for each piece.
The show was well balanced because his prose and my collages spoke to each other. I transferred his words to found wood which I then attached to the collages.
Anytime I take photos of public art/graffiti or signage, I am collaborating with the artist that made that work. I made a Providence collage a few years back that included Marybeth Meehan’s public portraits and the lonely boy graffiti artist with my photograph of a camper I found at a festival. They all worked together to make a completely new story.
You said to me "Your job as an artist is to share your process and help inspire other people." I have had so many conversations recently with fellow artists who like me have been burned, about protecting their artistic intellectual property. It's refreshing that you're coming at it from a different point of view. I would love you to expand on this.
I am completely against anyone stealing someone else’s artistic intellectual property. It’s wrong and lazy and without integrity. As a collage artist I am photographing things found in the world and reorganizing or collecting things that initially were not together and putting them together to form something new. I don’t want people to copy my work but I do think artists can take something from my process and make it their own. Any time you can inspire someone to become creative it is a good thing.
I really like the pieces you were inspired to create after going to the Black Lives Matter protests. Please share how you are going to be giving back to (local) charitie(s).
What an incredible year we just had. I don’t want to look back at the madness of what was happening in the world in 2020 but there are many positive things we can take from the coming together of people protesting against injustice. I participated and photographed a few different BLM protests in Providence and in Troy NY (where I was born). I was very proud of the way both cities were filled with chants and signage and movement in support of BLM. I collaged some of the signage and banners from those marches and incorporated them in my Providence collages. I would like to give 5% of the sale of those pieces to BLM.
You just did a studio Spring clean and it looks great! What new things are you working on? What's next for you!
In June I have the pleasure of being a guest juror at the Wickford Art Museum which I am really looking forward to. And in August I am participating in a coaster show through The Collaborative in Warren (a wonderful group of artists). I also have a few commissions that I need to finish up and some pet portraits to explore. I’m thinking of starting a larger piece (3’x3’) of the Crook Point Bridge and want to play with texture and color and maybe some movement. There is a lot to do!
Thank you Deb! We're so happy you're part of our Craftland family!
You can find her work at debhickey.com
Heather, Nikki, and Team Craftland