Shrimp Boy | April 2021
Oliver Hawk Holden grew up in a small coastal town in Maine before moving to San Francisco and giving it a go in the arts. He makes humorous, often kinetic sculpture, sculptural paintings, and runs a small art handling company called Expert Art Service.
Q & A with Oliver Hawk
PLUNGE: What are you making?
Oliver: I’m doing more sculptural installation... I have a bunch of mechanized bike pieces where I built foam figures that are pedaling. I have two of those that I’m working on and right now I’m kind of experimenting with if I can make components out of ceramic or if it’s too heavy for a moving sculpture.
A little fragile?
Yeah, if I have to glue a 7 pound ceramic head to a body that’s made out of foam and plywood it’s some risky business... but it’s coming along. And then I’ve been making some more flat works... Still kind of in the portraiture area but I’m trying to go a little bit less figurative with some of that stuff. But it’s usually just people or dogs.
Your flat work feels very sculptural because you do a lot of carving into your panels.
It’s all basically sculpture. I figured out that I could carve reliefs and kinda have that same feel as doing sculpture, cause that’s what I went to school for and am trained in. But I present it like painting... it kinda works for me because I can’t be lugging around 70 pound dog head sculptures. The works are pretty heavy still but it works out better and it’s a little bit more commercial because people don’t really buy sculpture.
Do you find that you sell more paintings than sculptures?
I end up giving away a lot of my sculptures and then I sell my paintings. It’s tough with sculpture because you have to hold onto these things. I built all these sculptures and I was occupying a lot of space in this common area in a shared studio setting. It’s like, cool, so alright I’m gonna put this in a storage unit for six months and then I’m gonna shift it over here, and I’m gonna put it in a friends garage, okay, so I have to tie the boat to the ceiling in the warehouse cause it’s taking up all the space... it’s really ridiculous. They’re bazaar problems to have but recently getting that second space, it’s like okay, I’m gonna pay like 200 bucks more than what I’d be paying for a storage unit to have all this stuff in.
Do you feel like art school helped to get you where you are now?
Yes 100%, it helped me really think about how to think about art. I believe it truly shaped my path and outlook being around other students and the mentors I had at SFAI. A lot of the time teachers were like, “take it or leave it” with the technical stuff, but at the same time I got to be taught by somebody who knows how to paint super well. I went to art school when I was 18, of course I just wanted to make weird characters and stuff... I wish I had a better head on my shoulders back then to be able to focus and learn more from the professors who were really skilled. Now I can set up a whole exhibition myself and if I know what I want to do I can execute it all myself. I feel like art school didn’t really help in that regard. It helped with connections that have led to more things, like a network. Learning how to paint and sculpt and having the space and time to do that was really amazing, but practical fabrication skills I’ve all learned after school. I learned how to weld in school but not structurally. I learned how to work with wood but I was pinning stuff together with little nails. Building a crate is a whole different thing, and making stuff for other people’s shows... you don’t learn that at school.
How do you work through stuck moments and what keeps you going?
I sit and think about it for a bit... get kinda stressed... then I’ll call another artist on the phone and talk about it. That usually works but if not I will try to put a few hours in the studio a couple days a week and work through it. If that doesn’t [either] I put it on pause and start something new.
What part of your art practice or process excites you the most?
I really love being able to come up with an idea and see it come into existence. I usually only do a super rough line drawing and some of the sculptures are pretty technical. I have a fun time making the work itself and solving the puzzle I set forth.
If you had it your way would you be making art full-time?
Yes! I would love to. But it would be hard to do again. I am thinking of applying to Stanford for grad school.... Uh oh... Really trying to make work and think about work that I can make for the application.
What is the path to get there? Any tips/ advice for young artists?
1- You have to put in the time.
2- Try to believe what you’re doing is important work, if you don’t believe it no one else will.
2.5- You are your biggest critic. Most of the time you have the magnifying glass over your issues with your work and nobody else
sees it. So just try not to be too self critical or defensive when talking about your work. Believe in your self have that dumb blind confidence the world has prescribed to the artist character. You don’t have to show that trait off publicly but when you’re making you just have to tap in to that belief that what you’re doing is important enough to be brought into existence.
3- Keep your momentum up, play each success into the next.
Find more of Oliver's work:Oliver's Website
Expert Art Workers