Monthly Member Feature | June 2019: BTS w/ LaToya Hobbs
Behind the scenes w/ LaToya Hobbs
How were you taught art education and about Black aesthetics growing up?
It’s not something that I can necessarily say that I was taught. Fine art was not really a priority in my household growing up and although I have always been interested in art but in school there was no focus on Black Artists and aesthetics. I do believe that growing up in a black household allowed me to develop a visual language that has a commonality across the diaspora that informs my practice. In undergrad I had to take it upon myself to find about my history as a black artist beyond the few artists that were mentioned in my history classes.
How was art recognized in your household growing up?
No one in my family really claimed to be an artist but creativity was expressed in different ways. My mother is a hair stylist and did my hair for most of my life. She also taught me how to style my own hair as well. My father’s hobbies were photography and playing the piano. As for myself, I have a love for the visual and performing arts, especially dance. I sang in the choir and did luthigerical dance at church. Throughout junior and senior high I also sang in the choir and performed on the dance team. Although I did visual art in school as well, I didn’t start to seriously pursue it until the end of my undergraduate career.
What was your experience as you moved into becoming a professional artist?
I made the decision to pursue art as a career in 2007. A few years earlier I was unhappy working as a Biology major and decided to get back to the things I enjoyed. I stated taking art classes and that eventually led to me changing my major to art. Once I redirected my focus everything changed for the better and doors started to open in ways that I did not expect. I applied to graduate school at Purdue University to get my MFA in Printmaking and Painting and was awarded a Teaching Assistantship that covered my tuition and provided a monthly stipend. My graduate school experience was very instrumental in laying the foundation for my career as a practicing artist and educator.
You’ve had the experience of being taught about art—how to see it, how to contextualize it within history and how to make it utilizing Western tools and technicalities then you create it from your perspective as a Black woman, and all the roles and layers that being Black and woman and being a Black woman, is composed of. Taking all of these multiplicities you also have found a career as an art educator. How do you inform your students and viewers about art and painting and printmaking?
I would say that viewers are informed by the actual work I create as part of my practice and being able to hear me talk about my work. When I do talks, I like to share information about how to produce a woodcut from start to finish because I feel the process behind printmaking is an area that most people are unfamiliar with. In the classroom, the curriculum and structure I’ve set for the course is the first way students are informed about the fundamentals of art and my practice as a professional artist. Additionally, I enjoy one on one interactions with my students because it allows me to help them develop their own voices as aspiring artists and creatives.
What do you find to be one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding Black art?
That it’s something that only Black People can or should be able to relate to. I feel that most of the time Black people are expected to see ourselves in or relate to other cultures but in the reverse, other cultures are not able to see themselves reflected in us or our humanity especially when the work is identity based. Although we (black artists) make work that speaks to our community and shared experiences, there is something that anyone can gain from the work.
How did your views of art education change after you became an art educator?
I never formally studied art education. My teaching practice is driven my ability to clearly explain information and the technical skills I have developed as a result of my own education and art practice. Teaching on the college level has taught me that an instructor has to be aware of the type of students they are teaching and have the flexibility to reach students where they are and help them move forward. I’ve also learned that students have insight to offer and I can learn from them as well. Now more than ever, I feel it’s important to encourage students to have a diverse skill set and be prepared explore different models of entrepreneurship and employment once they graduate.
Who is your favorite Black woman printmaker?
Elizabeth Catlett!!! I affectionately call her my art mother.
How did her praxis (practice + theory) shape your idea of what a Black woman printmaker could be?
Since I was a painting major in undergrad, I foolishly thought I couldn’t gain anything from the intro to printmaking course I was required take. But after being introduced to Elizabeth Catlett’s work all that changed, and I wanted to explore the medium more. I love the way she portrays the women she depicts in strength beauty, dignity and power. Plus, all of her work is so skillfully executed, what’s not to love! Initially. I had a limited perception printmaking in general, but her work showed me the possibilities and beauty this medium possesses.
What is keeping you focused right now?
With my studio practice I am currently focused on my Salt of the Earth Series. This ongoing body of work will eventually become a catalog. In my personal life, being a wife and mother of two boys keeps me focused on taking care of myself so I can take care of them. I’m also focused on being consistent with producing work and making decisions that bring me closer to my professional and personal goals.
What is making you happy right now?
One of the things I really enjoy is listening to music, especially live music. I used to start my day by playing music and singing but stopped when my boys were babies as to not wake them prematurely. Now I’ve gotten back to this simple joy and my boys enjoy it too! I love fresh flowers, scented candles and good food! Those type of simple things represent self-care for me, which is something I’m making a priority in my life as well. I’m also happy with the work I’m making now and excited to see how things continue to evolve!
Let’s see what happens when every featured Black woman printmaker fills out the exact same form.