An American penny becomes a cobra snake with a long thin mass of copper stretched between the coin's "head" and "tail"; a nurse's cap becomes a mother's breast complete with a nipple sculpted from human hair; a crucifix becomes an old-fashioned scale, with the weights consisting of two bags of gold resembling figures in mourning; and an American flag becomes a literal black-and-white, stars-and-stripes image with the stars coming from a photograph of the night sky.
Such are the works of mixed-media artist Tim Hawkinson, who manipulates everyday objects and the notions we hold about them to create a diverse body of artwork.
"A lot of the work comes from an investigation of social and personal views of the objects," said Hawkinson, who has a one-person show at Wilshire Boulevard's Ace Gallery through Saturday, and will be included in a three-person show opening at Santa Monica's Michael Kohn Gallery on Thursday (through Aug. 25). "There's just this kind of general urge to corrupt everyday objects that we find."
Hawkinson, 29, works in a variety of mediums and says that he has no special trick to coming up with the diverse ideas. "I just use whatever medium is most suited to the ideas, but the ideas always come first" the soft-spoken, clean cut Hawkinson said, noting that he must sometimes "invent" objects to use as materials for his pieces.
Some of Hawkinson's pieces are romantic, such as a manipulated lunar calendar made of a 10-foot-long pearl necklace. Some refer directly to already existing artworks, such as the copy of Simone Martini's famous "Annunciation" painting that Hawkinson put onto an envelope so that the cancellation stamps became halos around the deities' heads.
And still others are based on his own body. Three recent "self portraits," for instance, include a photographic collage of "the area I can not see in the periphery of my body," a cast lead sculpture of "the maximum mass I could get into my mouth," and a sculpture of the artist's legs where "the height of the sculpture was determined by (the amount of lead needed to equal) my body weight."
But most of Hawkinson's pieces stand on their own, unrelated to other work he has done. An example seem during a recent trip to the artist's downtown studio--which he shares with his painter wife Patty Wickman--was a rather pretty rose window composed of medical slides from the pap smears of 300 women. The piece, Hawkinson explained, shows "the relationship of the (pap smears) to the history of the church and religion: There are two ways of seeing things, through the window and through the microscope."
Hawkinson, who normally works on a number of pieces at one time, says he likes to keep variety in his work, which has "remained consistently inconsistent."
"I've avoided the idea of working in any kind of a series format," he says, noting that the variety helps him avoid falling into a formula and keeps his work more honest. "I'm much more interested in the ideas themselves."
The visual arts category accounted for $403,862 of the more than $3 million awarded last week in cultural grants through the Los Angeles Endowment for the Arts. Receiving grants were 21 local individual artists, three fledgling organizations, and 18 established groups.
In the individual artists category, grants for some of the more interesting projects included $10,000 to Eric Orr to create a granite and water sculpture in MacArthur Park; $7,600 to Mark Niblock to create AIDS-related artworks for a number of L.A. bus shelters; $10,000 to Robbie Conal to produce a new work for six Los Angeles billboards; $10,000 to Elsa Flores to create a 10-foot sculpture in Echo Park in tribute to Carlos Almaraz; and $2,555 to Cheri Gaulke for an artist's book about the Los Angeles River.
In the organizational category, grants included $14,000 to St. Elmo Village to produce two murals by troubled youth, $3,350 to the California and West Coast New Art Assn. to open a West Coast bureau for the New Art Examiner Magazine, and $30,000 to the Friends of Mexican Culture Inc. toward conservation of the David Alfaro Siqueiros mural, "Tropical America."
Other grantees included: Guillermo Bert, Jan Ellenstein, Wayne Healy, Sheila Lynch, Amanda Maculuso, Olu Osei, Peter Reiss, Rachel Vaughan and Harriet Zeitlin, $10,000; Jacqueline Dreager, $8,000; Sylvia Sensiper, $7,600; Edwina Gaines, $7,000; Rodney Sappington, $6,650; Elaine Towns, $5,325; Blue McRight, $4,490; and Gwendolyn Sidle, $2,400.