Hong Hong

Hong Hong (b. 1989 Hefei, China) is a painter and papermaker based in Massachusetts. Hong received her MFA from University of Georgia in 2014, and her BFA from SUNY Potsdam in 2011. Hong’s work has been shown at Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, MA; Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH; McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Charlotte, NC; Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Los Angeles, CA; Ortega y Gasset Projects, New York, NY; NXTHVN, New Haven, CT; and more. She is the recipient of a 2023 United States Artists Fellowship and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.
April 24, 2023
Tell us about your practice.
I go outside every summer to make paper beneath the sky. In this largely nomadic practice, painting and monastic rituals combine with ancestral methods found in Chinese paper-making. Each work is a performance that begins at dawn and ends at dusk. It centers around the birth and death of a single day. I’m interested in the consideration of the diasporic body as a singular, unfolding event. It is a place that continues to make itself. I also think about this body in relation to interiority, time, site, multiplicity, and divinity. 
Much of your works are created in both indoor and outdoor spaces. How does the unmappable or unpredictable aspect of nature relate to your practice?
What I do occurs in collaboration with the Earth, the atmosphere, and the sun. People romanticize this. Landscape shapeshifts. It is powerful. It is not neutral or static. Moreover, the material I use is malleable. Paper is weak, like me. It wilts, dissolves, and cracks. There have been many days when the work collapsed because of wind or an unexpected storm. I think about failure in relation to world-building and futurity. My practice is a space where I exercise how to sustain an unwavering belief in something that does not yet exist, and that may not work. What does it mean to hold onto something, even as it is falling apart? 
The tracing of familial narratives is a clear theme in your works. How do you choose and share these stories while still protecting their sacred nature?
I was talking about poetry with my partner yesterday. A poem generates opacity. He described it as a structure that always contains more than what is present. I think of each piece as a poem. Even though my work spans abstraction and figuration, everything is rooted in narrative and storytelling. However, this quality is not obvious if the viewer can’t access the vocabularies and cues that are present. I’m invested in a sense of self that can’t be read by those who wish to possess it. My body cannot be, and will not be, eaten. This is a story that alienates the reader in some way. It remains absent or misidentified by those who do not know it intimately. 
What has been inspiring you lately?
My mother has been in China, organizing an extensive collection of things that her father left behind after his death. They are ordinary objects, indistinguishable from each other because of their commonness: books, notes, stamps, mended clothing, binders, plants, drawings his grandchildren made, and stacks of letters. For my mother, the act of looking is not separable from a search for meaning. I feel a deep connection to this ongoing process. I want to work with these themes in a more direct way, perhaps via performance and/or video. I’m anxious about it, but I also can’t seem to get away from it. Sometimes the questions are enough. Sometimes they are not. This uncertainty excites me. 
What’s next for you?
I was just awarded a United States Artists Fellowship as well as a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. They both support An Earth at the Edge of My Sun, which is a project that I began in 2022. My practice has evolved from land-based processes to span both performative and intergenerational methods. This summer, I’ll be at Tusen Takk, which is a residency program situated on the edge of Lake Michigan. I’m looking forward to the chance to be fully present with and to listen to the work. As always, I’m eager to see where my practice and the future will take me.

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