Cahiers d'Art Institute Blog

May 12, 2014 2:38 PM

By Hannah Barton

After about a year of research on the Tim Hawkinson catalogue raisonné, I was graciously invited by the artist to his home studio in the hills above Pasadena to discuss his work and review the catalogue. Tim and his wife, painter Patty Wickman, share a studio, which they had built behind their house. The studio is large enough to accommodate both artists easily, giving Tim the space he needs to experiment with the multitude of materials he collects. Entering the studio was thrilling; immediately I was surrounded by a plethora of bizarre materials: stacks of eggshells, shelves full of nuts and bolts, containers full of feathers, piles of paint cans, glue bottles, and plastic bags. It is inspiring to think that within months these mundane, mostly recycled materials could turn into perfectly constructed eggshell sculptures, unconventional self-portraits, or imaginative and deceptive timepieces.


Left: Tim Hawkinson holds two recent plaster casts of his head and hands. Right: A model for a project in progress at the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.

After digging into the details of Tim’s digital catalogue raisonné, to resolve discrepancies concerning titles, mediums, and other aspects of his work, he took me on a tour of the space and showed me the newest work. One recently completed piece was a cratered orb assembled completely out of eggshells. Still untitled, the work hung delicately from a wire in the corner of the studio. As Tim removed it, he began to explain that a hairline crack in one eggshell fragment had caused weeks of repair. His patience for this type of construction is what makes his work so unique; though many of his pieces seem inspired by a child-like curiosity, it is his enduring mindfulness toward the materials he uses that transforms these everyday objects, so easily taken for granted, into sources of awe.


Tim stands next to the still untitled eggshell orb, with the plaster model used to cast Samoa (2013) on the right.

Our meeting culminated with a tour of the tree house Tim built for his young daughter, Clare. Sitting atop the studio, the structure is accessible by a ladder built into the trunk of an adjacent olive tree. Putting my camera in the basket dumbwaiter, I scrambled up the tree after Tim. Most of the structure was built using reclaimed wood from a recent home remodel. Found stained-glass windows let in a warm, colorful light. A small turret extends out to one side of the structure and a twisting staircase, its railing constructed out of recycled Christmas tree branches, leads up to an observation tower, whose ceiling is a sturdy old umbrella. Like all of his creations, the tree house is a model of resourcefulness. My visit with Tim was meant to resolve several crucial unanswered questions about his work, but along the way I had a chance to experience firsthand the artist’s daily practice and the whimsical, fantastical world that he creates all around him. Tim’s work requires the same kind of diligence and meticulousness that is necessary to create a catalogue raisonné, but it is the unceasing exploration and play that he brings to his life and work that I was most privileged to experience on this visit.

To see more images of the tree house, take a look at this article from the New York Times in 2012.

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