Artist explains serendipitous creative process behind “Hardwired” exhibit

Anna Hepler encourages audience to view their work as “play”

Emma Derr

Internationally recognized artist Anna Hepler speaks about her artistic process creating her pieces in the exhibit, “Hardwired.”

Hepler’s art has been exhibited in major public collections such as the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, the Tate Gallery in London and the National Gallery in Washington D.C.

She has lived and worked in the Netherlands, Cyprus, Italy and South Korea, just to name a few places, but she has been based in Maine since 2001.

Hepler spoke to an audience on Wednesday evening in Wilson Hall at Washington and Lee University. Her work has been on exhibit in the Staniar Art Gallery since Oct. 5th.

Her art experiments with many mediums, including wood, metal, ceramic and clay. She says there are no explanations or justifications of her work. Instead, she views her artistic impulses as starting points that she follows into unknown territory.

Hepler calls the act of manipulating the materials “play.” She explained that she believes the shape of work is not the same as the shape of our reason, so we should work for enjoyment, not necessarily monetary gain.

“We live in a culture that is work fixated,” Hepler said. “Our society wants to punish, not valorize, the products of play.”

She called the audience to shed the titles and institutional framework that may be holding them back, and instead claim authorship in work born out of serendipity.

By creating artwork, Hepler goes through a cathartic process and produces velocity. She described her velocity as “the speed in which you embrace and enact new ideas, which can feel very direct, immediate and simple.”

Hepler believes this simplistically can allow us to stay on more honest artistic ground and true to personal principles.

“We stop ourselves more than anything else out of our minds, but it is worthwhile to run with ideas and forget self-doubt,” Hepler said.

Some of Hepler’s works in the Staniar Gallery exhibit were created within the last week or two. Hepler said they were too new to comment on. She does not create art to create inner meaning, instead she creates to engage with the physical aspects of the materials and later explores visual perceptions and interpretations.

Hepler said she wanted to create “a sense of wonder and unpredictability” in the gallery space.

Many students commented after the lecture that it was the best talk they had attended during their time at W&L.