A couple of doors down from me live Susan and Derek Hopp, who are both artists. A couple of months ago, I ran into Susan and she said something really interesting, something that made me want to talk to her for this column.
“I have a hard time lately with creating objects just because of environmentalism,” she reiterated when we revisited the topic again for this week’s Art on the Air. "And do I want to contribute to more things living in my flat files in my studio before and after they go to exhibition.”
To that end, Hopp has fully embraced digital art. But, while they exist primarily in terms of pixels and in spaces like her website and on Instagram, they relate to the real world, often in ways that challenge viewer’s preconceived notions.
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“If you were to look at the work, it’s photography-based, but I’m not necessarily the person behind the lens,” she explained. “So what happens is that I kind of collage photographs that I find on social media and/or through specific Google searches, and then I deconstruct them, rearrange them, put them back together, and so they’re this abstracted landscape, which kind of implies other things.”
Hopp’s decision to pursue work outside of traditional media like painting or sculpture is interesting, given that she’s from a generation before the Internet and computers became ubiquitous. Delving deeper into her background, however, it makes sense, especially for folks like me who remember writing school papers by hand on paper or on a typewriter.
“When I was in college, before my first stint in graduate school, all of that technology was just coming into play,” Hopp related. “And I had some energetic force field around me…[I] just couldn’t even operate [Microsoft] Word. I would type up a paper on the computer and then it would print and it would be like 17 spaces between each sentence. And I would be like, ‘But it doesn’t look like that on the screen! Why is this happening to me?!’ And I was like, ‘To hell with this; I’m never getting into technology.’
“So there was this big resistance to technology because, at the time, you just didn’t know what that snowball effect was going to be.”
But as she explored her artistic inspirations further, she realized that there wasn’t as much of a difference between the way that she looked at the world as a child and the direction that the world was headed technologically.
Specifically, she recalled visits to her Uncle Benny’s house. He would have five televisions set up in his house, “because he didn’t want to miss anything,” Hopp said.
“I would go over there at like six or seven years old, I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” She continued. “And then as a young adult you kind of put these fragments together, putting 'The Price Is Right' in with the news in with the sports, and I was making my own stories. Without me even realizing how much that impacted me, I continued that creation of many stories from different places in one place.
“Long story short, I just embraced this whole cultural concept of media saturation. If you think about our lifetime, we went from turning the knob on the TV, to the cable slide box, to remote control, to phones without cords that attached to the wall. And you just keep going until all of a sudden you have the computer in your hand and you’re like, ‘Whoa.’”
Hopp’s creations are full of recognizable elements, but as a viewer it’s easy to miss them at first glace because of the way that she combines them. As she noted, she’s ostensibly creating digital landscapes, loaded with hidden meaning for those who care to explore them more deeply.
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At their essence, however, the artist is contending with the very nature of art as a tangible thing, a theme that I believe will become more and more important as we contend with the effects of environmental degradation.
“I think designers and artists always want an object in a sense, because everything we use is designed by someone,” she said.” Whether it’s the chair that we sit in, or the silverware that we’re using, or the pans that you’re cooking in, or the nautilus equipment that you’re exercising on, even your cars; they’re all designed by someone. And so the distinction between designing for function and designing for form, if I may, or art, is a little, in my opinion, different. In the art world, yes, I am concerned about adding to the objects out there.”
“At the same time though, I think people really enjoy objects of beauty, or things that make them feel a certain way,” Hopp added. “They want to own them, and they want to have them in their homes. And so if we move into a completely digital place, what does that look like? And I don’t have that answer.”
Art off the Air is a companion piece to the radio program “Art on the Air” hosted by Rob Hessler and Gretchen Hilmers. The column can also be found at savannahnow.com/entertainment.
The show airs Wednesdays from 3-4pm on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah and at WRUU.org.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah GA art: Susan Hopp works in experimental, digital space