Meet the Artist: An Interview with Artist Member Vivian Hordes

I’m talking this month with artist member Vivian Hordes at her Winter Street studio in Houston, Texas. Vivian received her BFA and MFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago with an emphasis on Design and Filmmaking. Her prints have been exhibited at the New Orleans Triennial: A Southern Perspective on Prints, at the Williams Tower Visual Alliance juried exhibitions and at the Museum of Printing History: Meditations & Inspirations where she was honored as the Undiscovered Printmaker of the Year. She is a founding member of PrintMatters and PrintHouston.

Let’s start at the beginning. When were you first interested in art? Were you interested as a child?

I think I began at a very young age to be amazed at all the things I could make with my hands. I loved the idea of making little things, little creations.

Were you encouraged as a child to be creative?

I wouldn’t say that I was encouraged. Fortunately, I just seemed to go in that direction of my own volition.  My teen years were spent in San Antonio where I took art classes in school.

So you decided to pursue an art degree in college?

Yes, I did and was very excited about getting into Parsons in New York.  Unfortunately, there was a big mix up with my financial aid package and ultimately I ended up at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an undergraduate degree in Design—applied to fashion and textiles.  I elected to stay on at the Art Institute for my MFA in Film Art.  I had been taking Stan Brakhage’s art history film class every semester, which was so expansive and illuminating.  Upon graduation, my husband and I moved back to Houston.

Were you printmaking at that point?

No, not really. I did take a screen-printing class with Ed Pachke who was very cool and one other class that was classified as a printmaking course:  Xerox images as art.  Sonia Sheridan was the teacher and as you may know was a pioneer developing the Xerox machine as a printmaking tool.

Tell me about the experimental workshop you took that brought you to printmaking.

I signed up for an experimental printmaking class that Holly Lewis Huldy was giving over a weekend and became connected to the medium.  It was like Wow!  I want to keep going with this!

What was it about this workshop that took you off into printmaking? 

I was totally fascinated with the papers. I loved what happened when the image was pressed down and the ink went into the paper fibers. Ah! And still today…. (She smiles)  The class was a taster of a few different media.  We did a little etching; we did transfers with wintergreen oil, and a few other things. I was hooked. I went back to her and I said, “ I’d like to learn more. Would it be possible for me to use your press? “ So, we arranged some blocks of time. She would give me some instruction and then I had a block of time to work on my own. I have had the luxury of time.

This is where you started. Where did you go from there? Do you have a first love?

I got a book (Printmaking: History and Process by Donald Saff) and I went chapter by chapter. I was on fire with it. So I experimented for a number of years with all the media. My early work was highly layered: woodcuts over etching over aquatint. It got to be too tedious. I reached a point where it wasn’t where I wanted to go anymore. I knew there was something else I wanted to be doing. The monotypes became a transition.  All the while, I had saved my printed papers. I never throw anything out. I thought to myself, “This can be a well-spring.” I was more and more interested in collage. I also have all these frames. So, I began combining what I had and filling the frames. Everything I make uses the papers and has to fit one of the frames.

So ink on paper resonated with you. Did you enjoy doing multiples?

No, I never enjoyed doing multiples. I like to do one-of-a-kind things. Each of my pieces is unique.

Which printmakers or artists do you enjoy looking at? Who do you admire?

I like Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Nancy Spero, and Kiki Smith to name a few.


Your background in filmmaking inspires your current work?

Yes, I’m amazed at this from this stand point that each of the images is like a tableau or story in a framed space. So, I’m going with this to see where it takes me. In the new work, I wanted to include photographs I have taken and manipulate the image in PhotoShop.   I use a sensitized Kozo paper designed for an inkjet printer.

Vivian is using a 55 lb. sensitized Kozo paper specifically designed for digital printmaking. She then collages and combines the images on a larger substrate.

Each part of the collages you see comes either from photos I’ve taken or papers that I’ve printed.  I cut them up and rearrange them until I find something that pleases me.


Is there any particular motivation behind the Lunation series?

I think that the passage of time and the phases of the moon are interesting topics.   Lunation means the length of time between two successive new moons.  I had been thinking about the moon and its influence and one day I discovered a “mold” image on an old piece of cardboard.  It looked like the moon to me which I photographed and printed.  From there more images came together to complete the diptych.

Your monotypes seem very free and joyful. Do you have any reoccurring themes in your work?

I don’t deliberately have any themes, but in the instance of the monotypes, it’s just the joy of playing with color and form.


Let’s talk about the untitled collage image.

No, I haven’t found a title yet. These are photographs I took in Morocco that I wanted to include with these particular woodcut images.  I’m interested in creating a three-dimensional space using color, value, balance, etc to combine the two “framed” images.

Do you ever get stuck and what do you do to get unstuck?

A lot of times I have to set everything aside, quit struggling and banging my head. I walk away from it and put on one of the other ‘hats’ I wear. Then I can come back refreshed……hopefully refreshed.

What is your biggest challenge as an artist?

I think my biggest challenge is myself. I need to get out of my own way and let my creative energies flow. I need to tap into the gifts and talents I have and not hold myself back.

I’d like you to comment on a portion of your artist statement, “ I like to celebrate the act of making images that allow and draw the viewer’s eye into an inner realm of reflection, memory and mystery.”

Well, for example, in Lunation there’s something kind of mysterious about the image. If you look at the other two pieces in the Lunation series, there’s something weird and mysterious about those as well. The other collage piece has something inward going on. I’d like my work to be interesting to the viewer. I hope they can look at my work and find something they enjoyed, whatever that might be.

Have you got plans, now that you have completed this group?

Oh, I have so many ideas going on.  I have some very interesting photographs and papers that I’ve printed just waiting to be fitted into the puzzle of an image.  After all, the beauty of the power of art is that it grabs you, pulls you in, and triggers something wonderful inside each viewer; that’s the place I’m going after with my prints!

Thanks for talking with us, Vivian.