When thinking about artists rights, songs that inspire you, symbolism, and recovery, contemporary art is generally not the first thing that comes to mind. Well, at least not all at the same time.
Self-taught contemporary artist HEES (b. 1962, Corpus Christi, TX) however, can meld and layer those topics together, creating unique works of art.
HEES, based out of Los Angeles, is able to channel some of the most intense and traumatic experiences in his life, battling cancer and the constant inequality artists face, into works that reflect those struggles. This is the theme of recent solo exhibition “EVOLVE,” with Aktion Art in Palm Beach, FL. In his new body of work he embodies and reflects the sketches and personal annotations he created in his digital journal over the last three years. Resulting in a multimedia collage of words, paint, and incontrovertible evidence of a confident artist.
Currently, HEES has a limited edition set of seven NFTS, released in partnership with Aktion Art and Culture Pulse, on view in the group exhibition “Pop to Now: Warhol and His Legacy” at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina through January 2, 2023.
As seven is an especially auspicious number for the artist and present in his work and with his recent and current shows in mind, I sent HEES seven questions.
Alexandria Deters: You are sharing your work successfully on both the east and west coast, most recently with your current solo exhibition “EVOLVE” presented by Aktion Art in Palm Beach, FL. What are a few of the biggest differences (good or bad) that you have noticed in these two distinctive art world scenes?
HEES: The biggest difference is the Palm Beach art scene and the west coast art scene is that the Palm Beach art scene much more consolidated and my reps have a much more established platform there
AD: You are a true interdisciplinary creative. You have worked as a photographer, make-up artist, and music producer. Now, in your fine art practice, you collage and mix photography, painting, and music lyrics. Two of the works in your most recent show “EVOLVE” include records signed by EV Daly and WHO?. How do you see various interdisciplinary practices interact?
H: Two of my paintings in the “EVOLVE” solo show are inspired by songs. “White Train” by EG Daily and “I’ll Be the Light” by Kristine W. Both artists are good friends of mine. Everything I’ve learned over the years as far as my skill sets are concerned have come full circle in my paintings. Everything I’ve learned and experienced as a human being (the good and the bad) have come full circle. I feel I have more of a voice now more than ever with my paintings.
AD: I find your work to be inspirational and your own journey of self-development, and overcoming challenges shines through, especially in works like “See Me Fly,” for example. How do you want your work to help others overcome adversity?
H: I want people to be reminded of what it means to be human. I want people to understand what great gift life is and what an epic privilege it is to experience life as a human.
When you bait people into working and then don’t pay them…. that is human trafficking.
AD: As someone that works in creative industries (art and writing world) I really like how you use your experiences being disrespected, abused verbally and financially while working in the entertainment industry. Sounds like entertainment industry and artworld could be twins! (Ha!) Your recent works about humanity you describe as a “a call for creative industries to do better.” What is one change or action in creative industries you believe would help with this goal?
H: We MUST give artists VALUE!!!!! When a federal judge says to me ‘just because you didn’t get paid doesn’t mean people don’t own your work” that is saying you have NO value. That WILL change. When you bait people into working and then don’t pay them…. that is human trafficking.
AD: Currently you have a new series of seven NFTs on view at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art (Charlotte, NC) that focus on the various topics of humanity: “Human,” “Grow,” “No Limits,” “Energy,” “Laws,” “Prism,” and “Life”. Tell me more about that.
H: Each NFT begins with a quote… a thought that I want you to take away from each piece. The common thread is they all are created with the intention of inspiring and educating people and again reminding people of what it means to be human
AD: One of the things I found most fascinating about your work is your use of Numerology. Especially how you incorporate in a layering effect in your work. Can you tell me more about your interest and use of Numerology in your work and personal life?
H: I use a lot of numbers and equations because I believe in science and numbers don’t lie. 1+1=2 the Fibonacci sequence is beyond contestation. I also like sacred geometry and it inspires me as well.
AD: As someone that has seen many people struggle, fight, survive, and recently watching close friend succumb to their cancer battle, your own personal experience with this disease and the courage to use that experience in your work is truly inspiring. What words of advice or encouragement or advice would you share for someone who is currently struggling with their health or a recent diagnosis of cancer?
H: Don’t fight disease! Let the doctors treat the disease and put your mind and body in a place of healing. Disease is the body not at ease so fighting ANYTHING is just creating more disease.
AD: What is your artistic process like? How do you work in your studio—do you have any special rituals or routines?
H: My work always starts as a thought. What do I want to SAY to the viewer. The painting for me is the means to an end… the end is the message. I believe this is truly my point of difference as an artist. I have a VERY specific message and very specific intention with my art. The goal in life isn’t to live forever… the goal in life is to create something that does.
HEES solo-show “EVOLVE” is open through January at Aktion Art, 150 Worth Ave, Suite 224, Palm Beach, FL 33480, and “Pop to Now: Andy Warhol and his Legacy” is open through January 2 at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, 420 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202.
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Alexandria Deters is a queer femme embroidery artist, researcher, activist, archivist, and writer based in the Bronx, NY. She received a BA in Art History and in Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University in 2015 and her MA in American Fine and Decorative Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, NY in 2016. Her writing and artwork are influenced by her belief that every human being is a ‘living archive’, a unique individual that has experiences and stories worth documenting and remembering. Photo: Ross Collab. l Instagram l Website l