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Catching up with: Tracy Hicks, 2011 CFM Artist Interpreting the Future of Museums

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
Tracy discussing Helix: Scaffolding #21211
with attendees in Houston.

Tracy Hicks was CFM’s 2011 Artist Exploring the Future of Museums. Installed in MuseumExpo at AAM’s 2011 annual meeting in Houston, Tracy’s sculpture and video installation, Helix: Scaffolding #21211, explored the future of natural history museums and their ability to influence our stewardship of the natural world. You can read about the Helix project in these posts on the CFM Blog. I invited Tracy to give us an update on his life and recent work.

“It is so very good to be here” has been a near constant refrain over the past year. 2011 and now well into 2012 has been hard. You may not be aware that I was hospitalized in March, 2011, just before the AAM annual meeting. The last time I saw many of you I was barely walking and talking, and that was a major accomplishment. The H1N1, pneumonia, coma and brain swelling left some residual memory loss and related confusion that had taken most of the past year to accept and to compensate. In rehab the most effective exercise was playing mind games that provided the focus for the physical exercise. So over the past year I have focused on making intimate and often intricate animated video studies.

The week following the Houston AAM-CFM installation we (my wife and a number of close friends) packed our home and my Dallas studio and moved everything to Atlanta, unpacked and stored everything in a much smaller rented home with a tiny basement studio. Again I was saying, “It is so very good to be here” in Atlanta where the culture is more relaxed than Dallas. The 1000 sq. ft. two story Dallas studio shrank to a manageable 144 sq. ft. studio in Atlanta with most of my art, tools and materials stored in a 20 ft. shipping container resting in our driveway. Plans are actively proceeding for a new home and studio in the mountains above Asheville, N.C. Land has been purchased, designs drawn, new much nicer land found and purchased, and now new plans are again actively moving forward with hopes to break ground before winter sets in.

From Amphibian Human Skin studies

Late summer, 2011, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (NMNH) cut planning for all temporary exhibitions not fully funded including the plans for an exhibition evolving from my Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. The installation project might still happen with the continuing support of SSAM Chief Curator Eleanor Harvey, NMNH Amphibian researchers Roy McDiarmid and Ron Heyer. Setting that work aside has been a tremendous disappointment, still knowing the support of Eleanor, Roy and Ron, researchers of art and scientists I respect so deeply lightens the frustration. “It is so very good to be here” and still working on the intersections of art, science, human and amphibian skins.

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In the spring of this year, 2012, I was offered and accepted a collaboration project in Mobile, Ala., with Rick Lowe of the Houston-based Project Row Houses. The Memory Lab project Rick conceptualized as a means to reintegrate Mobile’s historic shotgun houses into the city culture before they were lost. The Center for Living Arts’ Space 301 now houses a scaffolding structure I designed and built to replicate a shotgun house in roughly one to one scale. 

Mobile Memory Lab

The installation named 301c has become a stage for community activity including performance and will over the course of 2012 evolve into a laboratory for change. With the help of a Mobile collaborator, Elizabet Elliott and her organization Rumor Union, we are soliciting objects with local intrinsic significance from the community. These objects that range from dirt and rocks to Mardi Gras icons and a 19th century hand-forged dolphin spear are collectively creating a forum for Mobilians to re-conceptualize Mobile. This Memory Lab project has been challenging to say the least, but “it is so very good to be here” doing this with people I respect.

You can find bits and pieces of all this and more of last years’ work collected on my website:

And you can follow Tracy on Pinterest.

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