In the studio with aboriginal artist Tim Hogan
(This is an article by basketmaker Ralph Simpson that was published in Issue #5 of CreatedHere magazine. I've been sharing articles online that have previously only been seen in print - because there is so much good stuff that you may have missed! Have a read and be amazed at Tim Hogan's talent and passion for learning and passing on the traditional crafts of his people. Thanks Ralph! - MH)
Studio visit with Tim Hogan - by Ralph Simpson
“I love to be wowed by art and I would love to make stuff to wow people.”
Tim Hogan is an emerging artist of Maliseet and Irish descent, a single parent and student enrolled at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design (NBCCD). Tim, whose Native name is Timberwolf, explored the use of traditional Native techniques and media (porcupine quills, birch bark, cedar, birch, and butternut wood, to name a few) as part of the curricula in the Aboriginal Visual Arts program at NBCCD but his preferred medium is porcupine quills. A recent graduate, he creates contemporary art using traditional techniques.
I visited Tim’s studio in Burton, NB along the banks of the Saint John River last year. His studio is in his house and surrounded by beautiful mature hemlock trees and at least two tree forts. When I walk in his studio I am immediately surrounded by his work, the walls are hung with his paintings, and bead and quill work, and tables and shelves display some of his wood carvings. The studio itself comprises one large room with great natural light and we are listening to CBC radio 2, Tim’s favourite channel to listen to when he is working.
I ask Tim to tell me where he gets his inspiration, and his response not surprisingly is that it comes from nature; the outdoors, the woods, the islands in the Saint John River, and the legends of his people which, he says, come to him in his dreams. He dreams of the Creator, Glooscap, the little people, the imps, and the Creation Story and draws inspiration from them. He contemplates what he has witnessed and translates it into the original designs that appear in his work. Some show up in paintings, while others are carved in wood or executed in quill work, which is his favourite. The quill work most often is done on birch bark but sometimes on stretched and painted canvas. While at his studio he showed me one of his favourite party tricks. He darkens the room, lights out, curtains drawn and then turns a black light onto one of his quilled artworks. The result is nothing short of enchanting. The scene lights up like a Christmas tree … as the quills glow white they lend a mystical enchantment to the legends depicted in the work.
Tim has come to believe that the pursuit of art is his best path in life, and after serving in both the Canadian army and navy, he has committed to life as an artist, saying, “It makes me feel whole.” When asked who inspires his work he told me that he greatly admires fellow Aboriginal artist Ned Bear (who is also a Canadian Forces veteran), saying he likes the energy in Ned’s work and the expressions in his carved masks. One of his teachers at NBCCD is also a great inspiration to him, Tim says Denise Richard, Dept. Head of Textiles and aka the Red Tornado inspires him with her brilliant ideas and her boundless energy for art.
In summer, between school semesters, Tim works in the Great Spirit Canoe Factory in Oromocto making cedar-strip canoes and other custom design pieces. He likes working with cedar and with the original molds from the now defunct Chestnut Canoe Factory . At the factory, they build new canoes and make repairs to old and even vintage canoes. In his spare time there he collects the scrap pieces of cedar and later cuts out feathers and paints them in his studio. He calls these his gifts and he likes to give them to people who could “use a gift.”
And as if being a full time student and Dad to three young children weren’t enough he also volunteers his time teaching children traditional Aboriginal art in school as a way of giving back and keeping his native culture alive. Tim says, “It is important to him to teach the children, to pass on your knowledge to the next generation and I welcome the opportunity to do so.”
Tim is currently working on a large mixed media piece in his studio incorporating over 2000 porcupine quills. He has more than 250 hours over the past 5 months invested in the piece so far.
I can only say that Tim wowed me with the piece that he was creating when I visited. It is his ‘Grad Piece’ and as such is intended to be the culmination of all that he has learned and the techniques that he has developed at NBCCD. It depicts several characters from traditional legends and demonstrates his mastery with design and technical skill in quill work. Tim is proud of the work that he does and it shows, with or without black light.
Find out more about Tim Hogan here