Behind The Scenes Cody Hudson

In the run up to his solo exhibition Let me help you we chat with Chicago based artist Cody Hudson about work-life balance, sources of inspiration and rural life in Wisconsin. Additionally, photographer Lyndon French gives us some behind the scenes shots from Cody working in his studio and preparing for his coming show at Mini Galerie.

When people ask what you ‘do’, how do you answer?

I usually just tell them I work in the shapes and colors department.

What are your biggest challenges in creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?

I don’t really see any challenges in the making of art. It’s what I enjoy doing and what I’d be doing even if I wasn’t making a living from it. Navigating the art world is a bit of a different one. I feel like I’m not fully in the ‘art world’ sometimes. I spend a lot of time doing design based projects and working on other creative things so I don’t focus on just showing art or only trying to get gallery shows and being in that zone. I’m not always super comfortable talking to curators and collectors and that side of things. I’m better at doing my own thing then I am trying to fit into the ‘art world’ sometimes.

Aside from painting and doing design work as Struggle Inc., you are also a founding partner in the award-winning Land and Sea Dept. creative group, a partner in the Michelin-starred restaurant Longman & Eagle, and a father of two children. How do you manage all these responsibilities at the same time? Does flipping back and forth between them ever get tiresome or become a strain on your creative process?

I think moving back and forth between projects keeps me excited. I have never really just done one thing so I don’t know if that would be better. If I’m out working on a design project or an installation, by the end of it I’m really excited to get back in the studio and paint. So for me maybe having a more limited schedule is what keeps me super excited to jump back and forth and use different parts of my brain. I like to focus on whatever comes my way, be that a mural, sculptures, a t-shirt design or a restaurant identity.

You are very active on Instagram. How do you think the platform is changing the way art is being consumed right now? Do artists have to somehow adapt their work to make it particularly ‘shareable’?

I don’t know if I’d say I’m active but I like to try and post a photo most days just to stay in touch with the outside world a bit. I like having quick access to all the work people post on it. I’m not on facebook or anything else so in some small way it makes me feel a little more connected to a larger community. I also find that it is an interesting way to get quick feedback on a study or a new style I’m working on. I wouldn’t feel the need to change something based on that reaction but it is fun to see what people get excited about.

Where do you get your inspiration from? What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?

Inspiration comes from everywhere, I think I tend to just soak in whatever is around me at the time. I don’t know if it directly creeps into how the work looks as much but it definitely works its way into the titles of the work. Listening to music in the studio plays a big role in that. We opened a new restaurant called Lonesome Rose a few months ago and the soundtrack at it is all old reggae, dub, ska and rocksteady mixed in with classic country. So I was deep into that zone for awhile. Also I’ve been going back to a lot of techno based stuff I used to listen to in the 90’s and feeling that again. My aging hippie side is starting to come out as well as I’ve been listening to a lot of more new age / ambient stuff as well. I’m not super current on visual stuff but I’ve always looked towards 60’s culture as a big influence, everything from the Situationists in 68 to the communal living movement to a lot of the underground publishing that was going on then has always been very inspiring to me. I also love digging through old art and design books from the 60’s – 80’s.

Even though you live in Chicago now, you go back to your native Wisconsin during the summer and to California during the winter to work. How does this change of scenery impact your work?

Spending some time in California was a nice break, winters in Chicago can be rough and running into a different group of friends out there was always a bonus. My daughters are both in school now so we don’t really get to do that anymore. Thats why we started going back to Wisconsin for chunks of time instead. It’s much closer and easier to manage and I was born there. Main difference would be in Wisconsin we are more in the woods so we run into deer, sand cranes and turkeys instead of old friends getting coffee and the winters there are probably worse than Chicago but I enjoy changing the scenery up and getting the family out of the city. I can work from anywhere so it doesn’t matter as much where I’m at. I think it changes more my mental state then the work itself though. But all of that is pretty connected so you could say it works its way into the aesthetic as well.

In your eyes, what is the biggest difference between the European and the American art scene?

I don’t know if I’m enough of an academic to really say. I think with the internet that everything feels closer together for me now. The circle of artists and designers I tend to feel close to doesn’t feel connected to one geographic location or another anymore but maybe I’m spending too much time in the woods to call out the differences.

What is the first thing you are going to do when you come to Amsterdam for the opening of your exhibition here?

My time is a little short on this trip as I have been away from the family too much recently (I’m answering these questions from a plane on my way to Seoul) so I’m most excited to just get in the space and start making things happen. I’d like to do a large wall painting as part of the show so I want to jump right into that. Once that is sorted though I’d love to dig in a bit more and see some sites though.

Lastly, is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I’ve been really into these steel powder coated sculptures lately. They feel very connected to the cut paper shapes I make but also feel very polished and different at the same time. I’m working on designing some rugs with Home of the Brave in New York, that has been a fun process so far. I’ve also been working on some print projects with Louis Buhl & Co out of Detroit so it has been nice to experiment with screen printing a bit more.

Come and meet Cody Hudson in person during the opening of his solo exhibition Let me help you on Friday the 13th of April, 18.00-21.00. RSVP here.

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Photography by Lyndon French