“I feel it’s very important for artists to participate in swaying the popular vote to realize truths in politics.”
New York artist Hope Gangloff works predominantly with pen and ink on paper, using reference photographs she takes of her friends. Most recently she’s had work in the International Art Fair, the Armory Show and over the past three years she’s shown at Susan Inglett Gallery in New York, Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles, and Endemica Gallery in Rome. Hope studied art at Cooper Union but has drawn all her life. She’s also an illustrator whose work has appeared on t-shirts, children’s books and in the New York Times. Hope lives in Brooklyn with her husband Ben.
This interview was conducted over email by Paul Madonna in San Francisco and Hope in Brooklyn.
Rumpus: First off, I’d like to say that I’m a fan, and it’s a pleasure to have you answer some questions.
Gangloff: Thanks for having me.
Rumpus: You’ve talked about the enjoyment of being a full time artist, getting to the studio early each day and seeing others there as well. Do you keep a regimented work schedule? Do you take days off?
Gangloff: It depends on many factors. My schedule is regimented in that I’m usually working, and always have a huge list of things I either Have to do, or want to do, or want to try. When I get a clear idea of what the ultimate presentation of a show is going to be, I work non-stop, but otherwise, I’m prone to wandering around New York looking at stuff/events for part of the day. Recently, Ben declared this plan where we’ll try to take one whole day off per week. The day can move around from week to week. We’re thinking it might make us more productive. Last week, we got our commuting dog bike fixed and went grocery shopping. So nice.
Rumpus: How do you plan what pieces you’ll produce? Do you work for a show? Or are you making what you’re making, then showing those?
Gangloff: I dunno- it varies. Sometimes it’s fun to have a theme, but I usually go for a confetti explosion type of feel. I’ll draw all kinds of things, then maybe reign it in a bit—it helps to work towards a narration for me—it must be the illustrator in me. I think most artists feel a fantastic rush before a deadline, and it helps propel you beyond exhaustion when a show is imminent. Also, working towards a show helps me turn down illustration jobs that can sidetrack me wildly. I have a show coming up in October and I’m kind of thinking about collaborations and portraits and mythology. Not in that order..
Rumpus: You’ve said that you can better represent people when you know them, which is why you draw your friends. Since there’s such a familiarity with your subjects, how much of the act of art making is social versus a private experience?
Gangloff: For me, it’s definitely a social experience. I’m happy to have friends wander in while I’m drawing or painting. They can usually help by posing a limb in some way that I might be having trouble with, or tell me when something looks wrong, or even if they’re just eating lunch. I like noise while I work. My bad habits include playing movies and music while I work. I’m about 50 yards from McCarren pool http://www.mccarrenpark.com, so I hear all the bands playing on summer stage. It’s a perfect fit.
Rumpus: In write-ups I’ve read of your work, you’re frequently referred to as an illustrator, but I would describe your work first as art, and your illustrations as commercial opportunities based on that art. Do you see a distinction between the two?
Gangloff: Yeah, there’s a distinction in that most times, editors from ‘commercial opportunities’ don’t let me do my own thing. They want something very specific, and the pieces run the danger of looking watered down. That’s why commercial images aren’t on my website. For example, they’ll want to see a sketch and then a final. In my own work, I just go for final and if I can’t make it work, I trash it and do something different, to keep it fresh. Editors want what they are expecting, which is something I don’t even expect from myself.
Rumpus: If, say, the work you did for the children’s book series Magic School Bus, took off and became what you were most known for, how would that affect what you did in the studio every day?
Gangloff: My father in law, Bruce Degen, is the original book illustrator for the Magic School Bus series. I doubt that I would ever be known for doing those little black and white science teaching supplementaries. I was grateful to have gotten that job for the short while I had it. Not only did it liberate me from working minimum wage at a bronze foundry, It taught me all about how to physically package (as in wrap) and send illustrations, and how to follow directions and edits from editors. It introduced me to the idea of working on several drawings at once, and how to deal professionally with deadlines. If I still did children’s books, my day would probably be cut up into two parts- morning/books, evening/my own stuff.
Rumpus: Drawing and works on paper are generally thought of as the little brother of painting. There’s not even an adequate word for one who draws as their primary medium. It seems that more drawings are cropping up, though. Do you think drawing is getting a new respect in the art world?
Gangloff: I’d have to say, drawing has been getting some respect here in New York for several years. It is an affordable medium to work with, and affordable to young collectors as well as fellow young artists. They are easy to mail and light to hang, and generally smaller to deal with. Perfect in a city where, even in a recession, real estate is still averaging $2 per square foot. Not least of all, drawings can be super fresh and lush, on par with paintings. I love both mediums. Incidentally, I’m a fan of Yuri Masnyj, who pairs drawing and painting into his sculptures. I’ve never seen anything like it. They are incredible and incredibly beautiful, and keep getting better.
Rumpus: You’ve show in New York, Los Angeles, and recently in Rome. Are these the type of venues you expected to show your work? Are they places you sought after?
Gangloff: I’m pretty low key about promoting myself, as there’s too much to do already. How those venues worked were, it was suggested to me that I get a venue on the West coast, in order to increase my visibility and hopefully always have one of those fun deadlines to work towards. I asked some NY friends who they thought I’d get along with in LA, and my gallerist contacted Richard Heller in Santa Monica. He’s a sweetheart. Although it’s important to always experiment in one’s art, it’s a little easier to try crazy experiments in a town where nobody knows you. I figured out a lot of things working on the LA show.
The other show–the one at Endemica Gallery in Rome–I got in a kind of funny way. Ben and I were in Ferragamo’s shoe museum in midtown. I have size 11 or 11.5 feet, and always wear sneakers. No heels. So we were screwing around in Ferragamo because they carry large sizes. We got to hanging out with the shoe sales woman, Danielle, and had a fun time. She looked me up on the Internet later, and told me that her gallerist friend, Giulio Fabbrini wanted to meet me. We hit it off, and I had a super fun show last December in Rome. Wish Ben and I could have stayed a week or a season, because the art and architecture of Rome and it’s surroundings are mind blowing.
Rumpus: Can you detect any differences in reception of your work between these places?
Gangloff: I’d have to say, I love showing in the home town. I can nit-pick and get everything over to the gallery without the inevitable shipping problems. Framing is easier too. And Susan Inglett usually lets me throw up a mural, which is great. People wander by during install, and it perks the interest of a demographic that wouldn’t necessarily come to an opening of mine. I’m looking forward to October’s show.
Santa Monica was fun because it was so strange. Some girlfriends of mine accompanied me for the week, and we went swimming every day. We were late to the opening because everybody stayed in the ocean until the last possible second, and we rolled up with wet hair, still altering dresses with needles and thread. The crowd at the opening, for the most part, was really nice. There was a whole area of galleries that had their openings on the same day. About 30 galleries.
Rome was flooded the whole time that we were there in December. The Tiber was so flooded, it swelled to almost reach the cars passing on it’s bridges. Parts of Rome were completely flooded, and it was raining every minute of every day, unless it was pouring. People still turned out for the opening and we had a crazy night. Romans know how to have a good time.
Rumpus: You’ve said, “It’s my fucking job as an artist in the USA to do more to control our democracy.” Do you still feel that way? And what are you doing now to fulfill that?
Gangloff: Out of context, the cursing sounds so unladylike! That comment was made in an interview after reaching a crescendo of aggression against the state of the union over two years ago. I feel it’s very important for artists to participate in swaying the popular vote to realize truths in politics. Presently, I have an application out that I’m hoping to hear back from any week that will enable me to realize my dearest wish, and dually enlighten the public concerning certain environmental issues. I don’t know how to word it without saying what it is, and I’ve been wanting this grant for over 10 years. If I get it , it will be posted on my website with details. If I don’t, I’ll be informing all the kind people that wrote me recommendations that I’m going to reapply.
Additionally, I’d like to get down with some silkscreening.
Rumpus: Is there a state of mind you need to be in to make art?
Gangloff: I can’t really even begin to speculate without sounding like an insane person who spends too much time blogging.
Rumpus: If you’re not there, what do you do to get yourself in that state?
Gangloff: If I’m cold hard hopelessly stuck, I’ll go see a movie or (I’d usually go for a bike ride, but I’m recovering from getting 2 knee surgeries. Will be back biking soon. It’s my favorite). There are so many things to see in New York, it’s not hard to jar my brain into getting inspired.
Presently, I’m planning a small field trip to Philly to check out the Mutter museum. I can’t wait. Also, the Barnes collection is there, and I’ve heard it’s pretty great. Going upstate works too. Can’t beat the woods and a bonfire. Sometimes, I’ll sew until I want to draw again. I almost forgot about that. Sewing is the best. In January, I made three stuffed toys while I was on too many pain killers to actually draw. I fabricated a wiener dog, a bunny, and a goat.
Rumpus: Do you ever attempt to make art outside of that state of mind?
Gangloff: Yeah, attempts are made when there’s a deadline for an illustration that’s due and I know I can’t leave the house until it’s done AND approved. A lot of times illustrations are due the minute they’re assigned. Of course it’s fantastic when (you) get a whole week, but a lot of small op-ed stuff is due in two or three days time. Sometimes tantrums are called for. They help significantly.
Rumpus: What will we see next from you?
Gangloff: Susan Inglett on 24th Street in Chelsea has penciled me in for a New York show in mid-October. Happily, my friend Gavin Anderson will have pieces in the back room. I’m anticipating some collaborations being present, and some paintings on paper. Maybe I’ll sew something. Some drawings of local bands. I’ve got some time to figure everything out. And I’ve got some brave volunteers lined up so I can paint from life and keep the gestures nice and clean. Am thinking about having an open studio on April 25th with my studio mates. On Richardson near McCarren pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Will post it on my website for a day or two if we do it.
Thanks for all your questions, Paul!
Find more of Hope’s work at hopegangloff.com