Who are you and how long have you been an artist?
My name is Dorothy Hickson. I am primarily a writer, but I have done collage art since the 1990s when I created a DIY paper zine called “Dodo.”
What medium(s) do you work in & why?
I use a lot of found objects: bones, feathers, rusty bolts found on the side of the road. My assemblages may be on salvaged canvases, boards, books or discarded road signs. Since I just completed a novel, recently I have been using early-draft manuscript pages as a multitextured backdrop and construction material.
What is your creative process like?
While I am making an assemblage, I seek a flow state. It has elements of moving meditation, and it helps rest the busy, chattering verbal centers of my brain between writing binges. I collect materials all the time, and then at some point (often when the perfect frame or background presents itself), I begin to lay out the rust, leaves, torn photographs, etc. Sometimes I use glue; sometimes I embed small items in thick gouache paint.
What is the best art-related advice you’ve received?
My stepsister, Hilary McHone, is a photographer in Brooklyn. After part of my Artomatic 2012 installation fell off the wall, she said “Art falls down all the time.” It was a good reminder on multiple levels.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
I’m lucky to live in a sizeable house, not an apartment, but I do not have a dedicated studio space. When I am in the midst of a large project, I tiptoe around the edges of my Aerie and try not to knock anything over. It sets me back in my hula hooping practice.
Choose one piece that you currently have on display at Artomatic and tell the story of that piece:
The paired photos “Oracule: A or B (Editing Is Hard)” have a whole Artomatic-related backstory. The assemblage “Oracule,” pictured, was my piece in the second “Artomatic Takes Flight” show at National Airport. Two carved-out books form the base for that sculpture. I originally cut and shaped those books into a column base in my 2012 Artomatic installation, “Impurity of Motives,” and then I created the assemblage later using melted wax, small animal bones, a lotus pod, rusted metal and other found objects. The sculpture itself has not survived. I liked the photos but had trouble choosing one, which led me to the “Editing Is Hard” title. I was in the final stages of editing my novel manuscript while I was putting this installation together, and that meant a lot of small but difficult decisions: which version of a scene to cut, which sentences to keep or discard. At times, the necessary pruning of the text felt as painful as if the cuts were made on my own skin. I also inverted the usual “cheaper if you buy both” structure with “Oracule: A or B” — they are much cheaper sold separately, but that means you have to decide.
What is your favorite part of the Artomatic experience so far?
I love the festival atmosphere, the camaraderie with other art lovers, and the fire spinning. But my real favorite might be daytime volunteer shifts when it’s quiet in the building and I have hours to spend in the rooms. I always see new things and gain new appreciation, both deepening my love of my favorite works and making me fonder of the ones I wasn’t initially captured by.