Delaware River Town Artist Spotlight: Inside the Mind of An Outsider, an interview with artist Bob Hoke
by Edie Weinstein
Color spills out onto surfaces that soak up more than mere paint. Embedded within the hues and textures is the vivid imagination of artist Bob Hoke, who together with T-Marie Nolan are partners in their art endeavors as well as personal life. They have been a creative couple since 1980 and are the parents of three adult children.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, this 70- year- old spent his adolescence in Chateauroux, France and returned to the United States when he was 21. The travel bug bit him early and often, and has either lived in or visited “many regions and cities in this country.” He currently makes his home in Hannibal, Missouri, which was also the home of another creative soul; Mark Twain.
“Since approximately 2003 we have been successfully selling our paintings on eBay. Besides occasional gallery shows and The Outsider Art Gallery that is exclusively how we have been “marketing” our art!”
“That in itself seems to me to be a unique (outsider) approach” to getting their wares before an appreciative audience. Hoke calls himself, “an itinerant bohemian dumpster diving artist. I have made some type of art all my life! I paint on recycled/re purposed surfaces (wood,metal, tar paper etc.) that I find at construction sites, tear downs and random dumpsters.”
His work has been exhibited in many venues: Alt Art Fest, Saint Louis. MO, Slotin Folk Fest, Atlanta GA, HooDoo Fest, Atlanta GA, House of Blues Folk Art Fest, Orlando FL, Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Tuscaloosa AL, Outsiders Outside, Harbert, MI, Day in the Country, Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead KY, Good Folkfest, Louisville KY.
Keeping extraordinarily busy, he says, “I paint approximately 300 to 350 paintings per year. I usually paint 6 to 9 paintings per week, all at the same time so I don’t have to stare at a painting wondering what is next. I tend to compose on the spot reacting to each spontaneous moment from painting to painting. Each painting produces its individual feeling. I know I am going someplace but I’m now sure where. In my paintings color is the key. Color is the self-induced puzzle! Sometimes I solve the puzzle.”
He proudly proclaims, “We have done art shows, but they have been mostly publicity for our eBay experience! Our eBay sales have connected us with the entire United States, Europe and Asia. We just sent 11 painting to a collector in Berlin! In total T-Marie and I have painted and sold approximately 3500 to 4000 paintings each on recycled material.
DRT: How did art become such an important part of your life?
BH: I have always felt outside the main stream; a bohemian before I knew it was a word. When I was very young I made pot-holders and sold them door to door. I was hooked. I could make stuff with my own hands and people would give me money. It probably helped that I was a little kid working my own neighborhood. Also about the 3rd grade I became interested in clay sculpture and model cars and was always making things with my hands, which is a very good feeling.
I continued through my teens reading the work of every hipster and beatnik I could get my hands on, including Kerouac, Ginsberg, Miller, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Sanders and on and on, each one leading to another one.
All thru the 60s I made all types of art: tie-dye, leather hats and belts, sculptures, paintings and pottery…and then glass blowing and then stained -glass work and fusing. This brought me to the early 2000s and we decided to jump the ship and paint, paint, paint and here we are today!
DRT: What distinguishes your artistry?
BH: Well, one factor is almost all our work is done on wood…mostly recycled wood that has been slated to end up in a land fill, but that is general. I would say spontaneous color is the strongest characteristic! I like my colors very bright and in many cases kinda’ clashing with one another. The juxtaposition of shapes, color and ideas always keep me on my toes.
DRT: Who are the artists that inspire you?
BH: Picasso, Man Ray, Michael Banks, Jeff Hughart, Steve Shepard, T-Marie Nolan, Dion Hitchings, Basquiat, TR Reed (the Rev Fred Lane). There is an endless stream of fantastic artists!
DRT: How does the Muse speak to you?
BH: When you paint 30 to 35 paintings a month sometimes the Muse forgets to show up, but not everyone can be at work on time all the time. There are pretty much two concepts I follow…be in the moment (I know that is kind of a cliché’ now) but it has worked for me for a long time “There is no past or future …only the present” and the other thought is “There are no mistakes when you are painting”…. everything works especially mistakes!
Also, music plays a large role in my inspiration. Mostly, we listen live to www.wwoz.org from New Orleans and www.wfmu.org from New Jersey.
DRT: Are there particular messages you would like viewers to receive when taking in your paintings?
BH: Everyone sees differently. Each individual brings a fresh eye to the paintings. View the colors and all the activity and find your own vision. All visions are good; even bad ones!
“The black paper between the mirror…breaks my heart that I can’t go”-Capt. Beefheart
DRT: Please talk about being part of the A-team at Outsider Art Gallery
BH: It has been an unbelievable ride with Dion Hitchings and The Outsider Art Gallery! We did so many special projects…all the various PostCards series…the French Post Card series, the Nursey Rhyme series, The Eat Art series The Toy Show, Sic Magazine and lots more! We also exhibited with the Gallery at Monmouth Museum and Outsider Art Fair & Alt Art Fair in Saint Louis and Gallery Apartee and Grand Baz’Art a Bezu in France.
DRT: Any shows coming up there?
BH: The Outsider Art Gallery is in a transitional mode right now. Dion Hitchings has moved it to Milford NJ. And we will be opening soon! Dion tells me that there is a new space in Frenchtown call Art Yard that sounds cool.
So, for the time being we are at a pause with the Outsider Art Gallery. We have been exhibiting in Homefront’s pop up fundraiser in Princeton, NJ in May for the last two years. It’s called Art Jam. We are still maintaining a presence in the region.