Frank McEntire: Describe your studio.
Neil Hadlock: My studio hasn’t changed much since my first workspace in Tucson in 1969, where I was a graduate art student at the University of Arizona. My studios all have been similar—a clean area for books, paper, drawing materials, flat files, and a work area with steel layout tables, welders, table saws, hoists, furnaces, forges, and hand tools. Usually, music is playing, any number of employees and friends are visiting, and Karen [his wife of 45 years] is always there—my best friend and insightful critic .
FM: Where did you grow up and what was your family like?
NH: St. Anthony, Idaho, where I was born, is a small town in the southeastern part of the state which serves loggers from the surrounding mountains and farmers along the Snake River. My paternal grandfather and father were blacksmiths there. My mother was an English teacher and my maternal grandfather was a mural painter. I grew up believing I could do anything I wanted, and I became an artist.
FM: How did you get interested in art?
NH: My background did not include a traditional exposure to the world’s best art and philosophies. I got to see and read those things after experimenting with materials and working in my own way. I was interested in metals and paint, as they were used to build potato-digging equipment, long before I used the same materials to make art.
FM: You once said that your first trip to Los Angeles and your visit to the county museum led to an “epiphany,” which enabled you to see the relationships between the materials used in St. Anthony’s rural life and art making. What happened from there?
NH: When I attended the university, the academic emphasis was on literal meaning and explaining life through realism and didactic images. The Vietnam War was on, and a lot of imagery made statements about the war, politics and religion. I wasn’t interested in the literal expression of those concepts—I preferred the poetics of color, form, texture, structure and sensory communication. I still work with the belief that these elements create works which communicate universal aesthetics. If a viewer tries to understand what I’m doing with the work, I hope he or she experiences resonance and a sense of order. As in music and dance, there are rhythms and tempos in abstract art. To appreciate abstract sculpture, it helps to examine where and how different elements of the piece join together and to follow the rhythms and tensions within the forms. In my two-dimensional work, the viewer can find the same play with color and line.
FM: Can you give an example?
NH: “MARAN” is a bronze sculpture I installed in 1999 on the north side of Abravanel Hall.|6| It weighs 8,000 pounds. It’s massive, yet rests on two small points that are no wider than an inch, creating tension and gracefulness. The concert hall is an ideal place for four tons of three-dimensional music.
FM: How has your work changed over the years?
NH: Today, my art remains similar to what I have always done—images, textures, and colors defining iconic shapes. The process of casting and forging acknowledge the intrinsic nature of the materials. Even though I incorporate new techniques, I still believe it is important to stay close to the stuff of the earth: iron, bronze, stone, clay, graphite, and pigment.
Frank McEntire, former executive director of the Utah Arts Council, is a sculptor, independent curator, and arts administrator and was the art critic for The Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake City magazine.
Categories: Visual Arts