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The Amazing Hancock Brothers Lookers Get Punched in the Looking Balls

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Hancocks-4By Derrick White

First, ‘Happy New Year’ and may all of your dreams and wishes come true for you and yours this coming year.

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” – William S. Burroughs

Standing in a dimly lit, Kubrick-long hallway on the third floor of a tattered Ramada Inn in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, after attending an evening reception for artist Wayne White, I knock on the door for room #308. Through the cracked space of the creaking, slowly opening door, appears a small, oxidized yet powerful handgun gripped in an ink stained hand. Suddenly, this feels like a scene from a B horror movie. Then the door widens and artist (and legend) John Hancock warmly greets my friend Paul and I saying, “Hey guys, come on in. Would you like a drink?” John has his signature thick, dark beard. He is dressed in a plaid shirt, wears a western belt buckle, custom made cowboy boots, and straw bowler hat. He is relaxing with some chewing tobacco, and a glass of whiskey. This night is about to get strange and entertaining. We go out to a few casinos, get some food, and talk long into the night about art and other strange topics until John eventually decides to go to sleep on the floor under the hotel room desk.

Hancocks-9John Hancock is an expert printmaker, visual and performance artist, and a printmaking professor at Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas. John attended Baylor University where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Texas Tech University. Together, with his brother Charles – who also earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Baylor University and is also an expert printmaker, visual and performance artist, currently living in Austin – are the dynamic duo of the The Amazing Hancock Brothers creating, collaborating, performing, and printing images and mash-ups on anything and everything. Charles and John are two Texas outlaw (outsider artist) printmakers producing and exhibiting their unique, collaborative, and powerfully raw prints and collages for the delight and horror of viewers. Their work has a strong visual punch one can feel right behind the eyes. The Hancock Brothers conduct demonstrations, spoken word poetry events, printmaking workshops, participate in exhibitions nationally and internationally, and have work in numerous collections. They are both members of the Mid-America Print Council, Southern Graphics, founding members of the DPA print organization, regulars at Austin’s Annual Ink Slingaz Ball, and inspiring supporters of Drive By Press.

John-Hancock-woodblock-carved-backwards-because-prints-are-reverse-imagesThe Hancock Brother’s mash-ups are a sight to behold. Using screen-printing and acrylic paint they will lay out papers, fabrics or, in most cases, blocks of wood and, using a wide variety of screen-printed images, begin to create spontaneously on the surfaces. In a ferocity of commotion they collaborate on twenty to fifty artworks simultaneously. They randomly choose colors of ink and the placement of different images. Their library of Hancock representations is immense. The juxtapositions are endless – skulls next to eyepatch lady faces with fishnet stockings combined with vintage advertisements, zombie faces, snakes, sexy skull women in short skirts, monsters, devils, robots, panties, monkeys, wieners, etc. They use images of animal and human mutations, sombrero-wearing Mexican sugar skulls combined with different text and hidden meanings from words like ‘porno vampyre’ to the peculiar text RU486 (the abortion pill). The Hancock’s colors are bold and intense. Their images are horrific, subversive, and tantalizing. Their art is vexing, eye catching, and pleasurable. There is an uncertain enticing mischief to their images reminiscent of finding a dirty magazine down in a creek bed when you were eleven. Their process is disordered, expressive, explicit, and prolific. They make a lot of work. The end results of their work are unpredictable. “The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set up by the non-dreamers,” is a quote from William Burroughs (oftentimes a Hancock subject).

Hancocks-6John and Charles are master woodcut printmakers with thousands of custom hand carved blocks of their signature style images. On one recent trip to East Texas to attend a workshop, Charles sat in the passenger seat of John’s pickup and fearlessly carved several blocks during the ride. He carved several astonishing blocks. The floor was littered with wood shaving ankle deep by the time they arrived. The Hancock’s art has an edgy aesthetic to those unfamiliar but do not let their expertise in printmaking get lost in their eccentric imagery. I’ve watched them carefully and clearly explain the process of printmaking to a room full of students and onlookers. They inform and entertain, and act as print missionaries with their message, ‘art and art making is for everyone.’ Don’t let any elitist, high art, self-proclaimed culture-maker tell you otherwise. Make art. Do you want to be a weirdo? Be a weirdo.

John and Charles celebrate the frivolous and the low brow, but with a visual whack upside your head, and behind the graffiti art aesthetic is a proficiency in process.

I leave you with another William Burroughs’ quote I find fitting to the Hancocks and their artistic philosophy, “You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative.”

Hancocks-1Drive By Press is a touring woodblock printing company visiting college and university campuses nationwide, conducting print workshops, and touring with popular bands. They discuss on their website about the inspiration behind a new Hancock image t-shirt, “John Hancock is a founding father of 21st century printmaking in America. This shirt is for anyone who has ever had the pleasure of knowing or working with this amazing artist. We decided to pay tribute to this great man who has done so much for Drive By Press and American printmaking. Taylor designed and carved this one, and we are proud of it! We printed this wood block with Drive By Black ink onto a super soft slightly heather t-shirt.” Get some!

More information can be found at www.drivebypress.com/collections/mens-collection/products/john-hancock-tee

The Amazing Hancock Brothers visit us behind the East Texas Pine Curtain every couple of years or so. They had an exhibition and conducted an intense workshop at Tyler Junior College back in April, 2015. Now we eagerly await their next return. I can feel the thunder gathering even now.

Stay tuned. Stay informed. Stay weird.

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Art

Enter the “Every Body Counts” Art Contest

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Bored? How about creating some art and entering the 2020 Art Contest “Every Body Counts,” sponsored by the Tyler Public Library.

The due date for all entries are now due to the Library by April 1st. Mailed entries can be sent to 201 S. College St., Downtown Tyler, TX 75702. Digital entries may be emailed to ataylor@tylertexas.com.

More info can be found at tylerlibrary.com. The library will be closed until April 1st.

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Call for Artists for the Gallery Main Street Spring Exhibit

The Details: “Open Theme Exhibit” | Submit by March 29 | Opening on April 11 | Ending on June 1

Artists are invited to submit their work for the jurying phase of Gallery Main Street’s spring fine art exhibit.

The deadline for entry is Sunday, March 29th at 12 midnight.

Artists interested in participating should visit DowntownTylerArts.com, where they can find all the information needed, as well as links to the entry service site. The entry process is digital and allows artists to submit up to three pieces, with an entry fee of $20.

The spring exhibit is an open theme to go along with our new open style gallery! This will be the first juried exhibit in the new gallery space inside the Plaza Tower.

Gallery Plaza features a rotating exhibit of original local art. There are two juried exhibits, which means pieces are submitted for review by a jury panel of professional artists. Top-scoring pieces are selected for the exhibit, and the piece with the highest score receives a Best in Show award.

The space provides the artwork to be visible beyond the hours of the Main Street office and by patrons visiting the new first floor retail bays. The Gallery is a valued centerpiece to the beautifully furnished atrium that serves as an inviting gathering spot.

The spring exhibit will host a Reception on April 11th free and open to the public. The exhibit will run through June 1.

Gallery Main Street is a project of the City of Tyler Main Street Department in cooperation with the volunteers of the Downtown Tyler Arts Coalition. Information on Gallery Main Street hours and rules for entering the exhibit jury process can be found at DowntownTylerArts.com or by calling (903)593-6905.

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Ray Sikes: Inside the Artist’s Studio

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The Dreamcatcher

By Derrick White

“My experience with art started with Ms. Bobbin. I lived in a small, poor mining town. The school did not have an art program, but in the fifth grade, a roving art teacher was employed to conduct an art class for one hour a week for each grade. I remember being quite excited by this experience. We did soap carvings from large bars of soap. I carved a rabbit. It was great,” remembers local artist Ray Sikes. 

While attending college, Ray Sikes became interested in theatre and scene design. At community college, Sikes took art classes because the teacher was a famous native artist. He later transferred to a university and continued to major in theatre. Afterward, Ray enrolled at Baylor University for a Master’s degree in Theatre in Scene and Lighting Design. After graduating from Baylor, Sikes started teaching set design and lighting at a community college in St. Louis, then moved to Washington D.C. and worked as an assistant to a noted sculptor. Afterward, he ended up in West Virginia where he became Managing Director for an art complex, but resigned and moved to Tyler so he and his wife, Linda, could care for her aging mother.

Ray recalls, “In Tyler, I played golf almost every day for two years. I became very bored. I told Linda I wanted to start taking some art classes. I had always wanted to just draw and paint full time, though I had been painting and drawing some during all my teaching years. I signed up for a life drawing class at the University of Texas at Tyler. Then I took a sculpture class. Karen Powell, the department chair at the time, told me if I were going to keep taking classes I should just earn a degree in painting. I told her I already had two degrees why would I need another, but she convinced me. Since I already had a Bachelors’ degree, it only took me about two years to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing.”

During the time Ray was taking classes at UT Tyler, he was asked to start working for the department. Ray was the gallery director for the university’s Meadows Gallery. The Meadows Gallery is located within the R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Tyler and features rotating exhibitions throughout the year. The exhibition schedule includes nationally known guest artists, the Annual International Exhibition, faculty curated shows, Master of Fine Arts degree thesis exhibitions, and an annual student juried exhibition. The Annual International Exhibition is juried by an invited guest artist, historian or critic. The current 35th Annual International Exhibition is on view through March 6th, and was juried by independent curator Leslie Moody Castro. The Meadows Gallery will feature Jessica Sanders’ M.F.A. Thesis Exhibition March 16th-20th with a reception on March 17th. Nora Schreiber’s MFA Thesis Exhibition in the Meadows Gallery will run March 30th-April 3rd with a reception on March 31st.

“After my first few painting and drawing classes at UT Tyler, I realized I wanted to explore my native heritage through art. This started me on a research exploration about native aboriginals. This research led me to see most native arts had a spiritual/social conscience content. It just was not art for art’s sake; it had a societal purpose. I ask myself how this could be portrayed through my art. I came to use native forms like shields, deer skins, beads, and feathers. Plus, after visiting the Denver Art Museum and seeing original ledger paintings, I realized that the native style of painting was very flat and did not follow the western strictures of perspective. I have tried to paint in this way; although, there are times when I forget and revert to the Western canon. It is hard to forget how one was trained.”

“One of my first shields was made from rose bush stalks tied with leather and stretched over with tanned deerskin. I painted the pictures on the shield with red clay from my yard. I then realized I did not want to take the time to find and process natural dyes, so now I paint with acrylic paint on tanned leather. I tried oil paint first, but it tends to bleed into the leather surrounding the object leaving an oil stain.”

“I think calmness is a gift from my art. When I am in my studio and working on some piece, I am in the ‘flow’ much of the time. There was one noted artist who said, ‘When I go into my studio all my friends are there in my mind, then after a while, it is just me, then I leave and my work of making an art piece begins.’ I start to work on a certain piece and when I look up four hours have passed on the clock and I am calm.”

“Waiting so long to do what I really wanted to do – just paint! I think this happened because I listened to a very significant person in my life long ago that pushed their agenda on me and I believed them. I learned much later one needs to ‘follow your bliss’ and to hell with what other people say about what you want to do.” 

“The first one is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a 19th-century post-impressionism painter, who recorded many details of the late-19th-century bohemian lifestyle in Paris. Lautrec mastered many visual art forms: printmaking, drawing, painting, caricaturist, and illustrator. Because of his title and disability, he was accepted into many levels of society, but he chose mostly to paint from the lower classes. He especially liked the people of dance halls and brothels. I find his work honest and clearly stated.”

“Fritz Scholder is a native 20th-century artist, who mostly paints natives. His ‘most influential works were post-modern insensibility and somewhat pop art in execution as he sought to deconstruct the mythos of the American native.’ Fritz was a Luiseno native, part of the California Mission culture. I like his work because it pushes the edge of work by natives about natives. Since a lot of my work is about natives on this continent, he gives me inspiration and insight into what I think about what I want to paint.”

 

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