KG: How did you get into making a living as an artist?
WH: it was a true fait accompli.,.. well it sort of just happened over time and i started showing more and more and managed to start selling more and more work and it seemed to make sense to go full time with painting at some point….. it wasnt really until i reached that point that i thought it was something that was even possible….
KG: You were enrolled in college working towards a history degree at that time. Were there any relative influences that affected your style?
WH: at university I was studying European history which is fascinating to me and I was preparing for a long career in academia… Although history is something I have a lot of passion for I wouldn’t say it was much of an influence on my work directly…. Of course nothing exists in a vacuum and as such everything that makes a person what they are will show itself in some form or another at some point and that is true for my work as well…. But things like German unification or the Russian revolution don’t pop up much in my work…. There is a sort of melancholy and detachment in the development of modernity that is profound in both the history of post nineteenth century western civilization and my work…. That ethos, that zeitgeist as they say is probably the strongest direct link between my university days and my current paintings……
KG: The characters and creatures in your work imbue much melancholy and fragility. How do you orchestrate them in their symbiosis?
WH: well, my work is primarily narrative painting and there is an emotional undercurrent that i am most comfortable working in….. melancholy and fragility are part of that and the two are definitely symbiotic to some degree…. combined with a sort of austere landscaping on found materials and strange print materials it all comes together and im able to tell little stories and relate the emotions within that story fairly effectively…. however i almost always include counterweights for the sad parts….. there may be a crying bird but there may be some little birds in the trees waving hello….. figures may seem sad but they have friends and they so often are holding hands and they have each other…. etc. etc.
KG: What is “sadness” to you?
WH: well of course sadness has a set of literal definitions…. to me and the emotional narratives that i create it is a matter of relative personal values… i don’t really value angst ridden despair or monsters and blood and whatnot…. i am interested in existential sadness and all of its different forms…. in german there is a word that doesn’t translate to english well but the germans have a word, einsam, it means lonely but with a romantic soul searching lamenting the cruel nature of life thing attached to it…. it reflects societal values and the very german idea of separating and compartmentalizing emotions and their relationship to the world around them…. it reflects the idea that you give unto ceaser what is ceaser’s….. there is an acceptance in the end of the realities of this life but without death there is no life… without broken hearts there would be no valentines…. without some sadness there would be no happiness…. the one defines the other….. it is a matter of balance….
that said, my work is usually just a bit sad and luckily people respond to the narratives and relate with them and find a comfort somehow in these sad songs….
KG: Which leads me to your creation of diptychs, triptychs and occasional polyptychs. The medieval reference seems apparent. What did you have in mind?
WH: Sure medieval religious paintings on the different panels i found interesting…. max beckmann did some work on split panels…. i’m sure tons of artists have…. for me, once i started working on found wood i had a lot of long thin fenceposts and wood planks and it was very natural to take two or three and put them together to create an easier sized ‘canvas’ to work on….. something 3 inches wide but 16 inches long is very awkward to work with, but if you put three together its now nine inches wide and much easier to develop a little scene… from there it was just an organic process of trial and error and finding what worked best….. at this point there is a lot of my work that i almost prefer to be split in two or three….. it adds a strange twist but usually does not interfere with the flow of the work at all which of course is the real trick……..