I am an object maker plain and simple—it’s been in my hands since I was a kid sewing quilts, knitting, and embroidering with my grandmother. As an artist I find a genuine awe and respect for the handmade, whether that’s the shoes we wear, the phones in our pockets, or the doily sitting on the side coffee table. In my work I use craft not only as a technical process for creating objects, but as a theoretical and historical process for thinking about and subverting those things we so often forget and throw aside. As an Artist-in-Residence as Arrowmont I’ve been lucky to see fist hand material process that go into making so many things we find around us on a daily basis.
It’s the connection to artist, craftspeople, and makers of all types that makes living and working at a craft school a genuinely unique experience. During my past 9 months living in Gatlinburg Tennessee I’ve continued my exploration of what it means to construct an identity based around the object we surround ourselves with. In particular I’m interested in how queer objects might in habit a space and create a new formulation for how we think about the handmade and how our bodies remember and inhabit space.
Like many queer kids growing up I never felt as though I fit within the space I inhabited. Growing up in Southeast Idaho I had to find my own safe space away from baseball practice, recess, and the daily barrage of just being a kid. So, I turned to hanging out with my grandma afterschool and over the summer. I would sit on the brown shag carpet in her tiny apartment surround by furnishings straight out the 70’s. I spent the afternoons watching The Golden Girls and Prices Right, while my Grandma Alice sat in her rocking chair knitting, crocheting, and making quilts. Around the middle point of my residency once I had thoroughly cluttered my studio, I had a visit and was told that my work and studio looked like “queer geriatric kitsch”. I loved how succinctly that comment characterized my studio space and the work I was making at the time. I was drawn back to this realization that I was yet again creating my own safe space out of materials and processes that gave me a sense of comfort.
The one great thing about living at Arrowmont and the surrounding areas is that there is no shortage of antique malls and flea markets. While some people like to hike, bike ride, or swim I LOVE a good antique mall or flea market. I find a sense of calm and comfort going through booth after booth excavating and discovering the material clutter no one wants anymore. I use my time wandering through these malls not only to find materials for my installations but inspiration from the layout of the booth to the pink floral hurricane lamp no one should live without. These objects devoid of any typical didactics you would see in a museum fascinate me and speak to a human drive to collect, categorize, and preserve.
While at Arrowmont I’ve had so many different people come through my studio and make connections with the materials and objects I use. I heard story upon story of how “so and so use to make needlepoints” or “my mom; aunt; sister…. use to be an Avon Lady, and we still have a collection of perfume bottles in the basement.” I find the stories that people have about the objects in their lives endlessly endearing. We tend to associate places, people, and events in our lives with specific objects present during those times. Just like I am transported back to my Grandmothers apartment whenever I see a crocheted doily. One of the powers that objects have is the ability to connect memories, histories, and people in our past. These memories are teleported to the present though the physical manifestation of objects that often out live us. One of the highlights of being an Artist-in-Residence at Arrowmont has been to hear so many personal stories and to connect with people through the objects in my studio and the exhibitions in the galleries.
Whenever we start a new chapter in our lives their there is anticipation, fear, and sense of unknowing. I distinctly remember those feelings a year ago when I was about to embark on the journey of moving from graduate school in Richmond Virginia to Gatlinburg Tennessee. Its been a whirlwind over the last 9 months and I look forward to the next journey and the objects waiting to be rediscovered.
Everett Hoffman was born and raised in Southwest Idaho surrounded by suburbs and farming towns. He graduated with a BFA from Boise State University in 2013, and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018. His current body of work examines everyday material debris reconstructed within the complex narratives of identity, gender, and sexual desire.