Mary Chomenko Hinckley is an American artist who works in bronze, resin, glass, and photography. She recently published a monograph showcasing her stunning work.
Mary recently talked with Rose City Reader about her work, her book, and the process of making a book about art.
Please tell us about the blue coyote on the cover of your book.
My first coyote sculpture was a commission for an upscale urban redevelopment project in Old Town Pasadena. Wildlife in that neighborhood has largely been replaced with shops, streets and condominiums. The coyote symbolizes the struggle of wildlife to thrive in urban places. The coyote is a symbol of survival. It adapts to its environment. As the child of WWII survivors and immigrants from Ukraine, I identify with the coyote. The bronze coyote is nickel-plated to give him a beautiful, reflective surface and is then tinted blue. I want the coyote to be viewed as unique and precious.
Why did you choose the coyote as the cover picture?
In closely working with Ryan Polich, the book’s designer at Lucia|Marquand in Seattle, we tried various pieces on the cover. I wanted two different mediums on the cover. The blue coyote is a recent piece and worked well with the glass piece from my Gates of Venice series that we chose for the back.
You’ve worked in many media as an artist – bronze, resin, glass, paint, and paper – what led you to compile this monograph of your work, Material Evolution, at this point in your career?
After a solo exhibit in 2015, I wanted a permanent record of my journey as an artist. So much work goes into an exhibition, it happens, the work comes down and it’s over. The work goes out into the world and the conversation with the work on the walls is finished. I wanted a document to see where I’ve been and to share it.
How did you think of the book’s title and what meaning do you want to convey with it?
My last two exhibitions have been titled Material Evolution because I have worked in paper, bronze, paint, photography, resin, and glass and back to bronze. As I have revisited early work in one medium I find something new to say about that idea in another medium. The ideas evolve and one medium or another asserts itself as the best way forward. Thus the title; I continue to find a satisfactory process in varying materials.
There is a theme that runs through much of your work of how the natural word intersects with urban life. Can you tell us about that theme?
Living in Boston then in Silicon Valley for over 20 years I worked as a graphic artist for electronic companies. I looked at the universe of manufacturing and the proliferation of manmade goods, especially electronics. I became keenly interested in the intersection of the natural world and the built world. I question if nature will survive and thrive in the hands of the humans.
What did you learn from compiling Material Evolution – either about your work as an artist or the process of creating a book like this – that most surprised you?
I found the extreme connectedness in my work. While various bodies of work may seem random, I clearly see the natural progression in my ideas. I hope the reader sees this as well. When working,
I don’t know where the piece is going, but in retrospect, there is a clear path. It is a journey of discovery.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a collaborative process with the writers in the book. I enjoyed conversations on philosophy and Artificial Intelligence with Paul Karlstrom, art historian, who wrote my lead essay. I enjoyed working with Ann Karlstrom who is a brilliant editor. Ann. She edited for grammar and content and drove me to clarify ideas and consider each word; exhausting, but worth it.
Who is the audience for your book?
My audience is anyone who is interested in contemporary art, Silicon Valley archaeology (I may be the first SV archaeologist), ideas of time and place, and how the natural and built world collide and coexist. Children also love the book.
Of the works featured in your book, what is your personal favorite, the one that brings you joy?
I love coyote on the cover, it makes me optimistic and I am very fond the life-sized photographs of the collection of my children’s shoes over 15 and 13 years respectively. They show a journey of two children growing up in the 90’s, their activities, gender, time, and place.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an artist?
Keep working even if you think no one cares. If you make work, someone will care, besides you. John Goldman, Architect and friend, San Francisco, 1986. It is easy to be uncertain and discouraged and you need to believe in yourself and your vision.
Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?
I am speaking at PSU on May 8 about my book, work and journey. In the fall, I may do talks and book signing on the East Coast. I am working with mindbuckmedia to help set those up.
What is your next project?
I have a bronze commission from the City of Beaverton, which will be completed this summer. I am working on new glass pieces that explore the element of chance. I stack glass pieces in the kiln and when fired and fused the glass moves in unexpected and beautiful ways.
MATERIAL EVOLUTION IS AVAILABLE ONLINE, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER TO ORDER IT!