Contemporary artist Trenton Doyle Hancock plays it cool in his thrift store fashion and vibrant, oversized glasses, but the rising star creative continues to earn serious respect in the national arts arena.
From his studio, based in Houston's Acres Homes neighborhood, Hancock turns out a mix of prints, drawings and collaged felt paintings that tell stories of a fantastical nature. His work has been featured in PBS' Art:21 - Art in the Twenty-First Century, Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art and the American Folk Art Museum's "Dargerism" exhibit, showing the influence of the late Henry Darger on contemporary artists.
Why Houston?...I got into the residency program here, the CORE program [at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston] in 2000 and moved here and never left.
The CORE program...It's probably in the top five residencies in the world, actually. So, I had a choice, ‘Am I going to move to New York? Or do this other thing?'
The change in Houston's art scene...I think it's less about how I've seen the scene change internally. I mean, there have been changes, but I've become more aware of Houston's role in the art ecosystem both nationally and provincially in Texas--how it weighs against Dallas and San Antonio and Austin. I think the wheels have been in motion for a good 10 years, especially with the visibility of the CORE program and great shows at the Menil and the different museums. Yeah, I think people are seeing what's going on.
Houston's hidden gem...The Menil, for example, which I would say is one of the top 3 museums in the country [along with the Met and the Guggenheim.] It has a longstanding history and the agenda of the museum is to represent underrepresented demographics and make amazing art accessible to the people. If I'm lucky, I get to go there every day. The other thing that excites me about the city is that you have these big institutions, for an affluent crowd, but then you also have thrift shops everywhere. I'm one to collect culture on both ends. I love to go on that low end and find things and then come to The Menil and discover things, too.
Explaining Houston to outsiders...Well, it's funny. When people from either of the coasts are like, ‘Why are you staying in Texas?' I'm like, ‘I'm in Houston, specifically, and I'm here because I can afford a certain amount of space and privacy, but if I want to get into things, Ican, and they're right there.' There also seems to be a kind of liberalattitude here and accessibility to theater, food--all of that cultural access comes because of the diversity here. There's kind of an understanding between different cultures. That's hard to explain to someone, say, from New York. ‘Well, it's actually more diverse here.' It's one of the cool things about here. I can go eat any kind of food I want because it's out there and it's authentic.
Favorite place to experience art...I don't want it to just be The Menil or to put one museum over another, because they all have their own thing. I can go to the MFAH because they generate shows that are shows the Whitney could generate or the Guggenheim, so I go there for that. Of course, their permanent collection and their antiquities are amazing. I go to the Contemporary Arts Museum because it keeps its finger on the pulse of what's happening right now. There are amazing surveys of artists from the recent past, and those shows get contextualized with shows from younger artists, so you get to see what that dialogue is between, I'd say, three generations worth of art. And then The Menil, of course, takes any artist that you know in your art history book and they probably have an example of that artist's best work here.
What I do for fun...I go see movies. I go thrift shopping. The chain Family Thrift--there's one on every corner of the city. There's Village Thrift, Family Thrift, the Sand Dollar. I mean, I've been doing it relentlessly for years.