Walk into the room and, as you already expected, there is something different. You see yourself face-to-face with figures painted on wood, all with evocative yet slightly puzzling expressions. Is the woman with closed eyes feeling incredible joy...or is she in pain? It’s left for the spectator to figure out.How will he or she connect with each piece on a personal level is part of a unique experience and it reflects one’s personal feelings in connection with the slightly ambiguous imagery of each painting. And such ambiguity is one of the things that makes Aaron Hequembourg’s work so unforgettable.
On November 22th, the late-fall art reception at the Myers Gallery presented Hequembourg’s show “Living in History.” The artist is the parent of four children who attend Athens Academy and It will be on display until Friday, January 22.
Mr. Hequembourg is a prize-winning artist who was trained in printmaking and engraving; his initial works consisted of abstract figurative paintings engraved in figurative panels. After moving to the farm where he lives with his wife and four children, he writes on his website, “a family member suggested burning down the sharecropper houses that were scattered over the farm.” . Instead, he explored the history of the buildings and objects inside, and they inspired him to research period photography and utilize it in his work. It is possible to see this influence in “Living in History.” The works created with and because of the sharecropper houses have been his most successful pieces to date.
The art for the show was mainly executed this year. It started with the artist’s rendering of his son reading, and it was created to help raise funds for Athens Academy. He wanted to continue to produce pieces specifically for this purpose, but he “also wanted to broaden [his] choice of subjects.” The series eventually expanded to include family members, neighbors and people from his community.
Dr. Lawrence Stueck, head of the department of visual arts, describes Mr. Hequenbourg’s art as “inviting and significant.” He added, “I love his sense of humor and insightful portrayal of the young children creating artwork. Mr Hequembourg has the skill to convey complex emotions with an enigmatic simplicity.”
Using wood from the buildings as a canvas, Hequembourg paints incredibly detailed figures that seem to come alive on their wood backgrounds.
He said it was always his dream to become an artist; he followed the footsteps of his mother, who was also one, and he went to school on a full tuition art scholarship at University of Iowa. According to him, all of the images of living models have a story; the one wall of vintage subjects (the work that preceded the living models) were more an effort to achieve a nostalgic look than a statement about specific lives or stories. He also said that “the fact that the subjects of my current work are real people has definitely changed the work. The fact that each model shares in the profits of each piece that contains their likeness has changed my life and theirs.” All of his subjects are neighbors and members of the community, and each receives 10% of the profit of the pieces that feature them.
As a visual artist, the perception of the audience and the order in which the components of the composition should be seen is the main thing he thinks of while working on a piece. When we asked him about moments of discouragement, he said that every artist experiences doubt, and there is one way to shake it off. “We create in a bubble and then expose pieces to the public. The more you are honest with yourself and your audience, the more likely that your efforts will be received in the manner you hope for.”
When asked about his work habits, he says that his schedule runs “very late.” He can work during all hours of the day, depending on his children's sports and school schedules, “but most of the good stuff happens between 11:00PM-3:00AM.”
His advice to young artists at Athens Academy is to “Take every opportunity to experiment with every medium, [because] you will never know where you'll be working in the future.” We also asked him what was one piece of advice he received that stuck with him. He said that a boss once told him, “Well let's do something, even if it's wrong.” He concluded: “You often learn more from mistakes than successes.”