Local Artist Opens “Close To Home”

Wendy Hatch is a highly decorated visual artist with a rich tapestry of experiences including undergraduate printmaking at Syracuse University, and MFA at Pratt and Brooklyn, professorial stints including our own Delaware Art Museum. “Close to Home,” a show of W.A.S. Hatch’s recent work, will be on exhibit at the Delaware Center of Contemporary Arts January 22 through May 30. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of her Highlands Live discussion.

Benjamin Wagner: Talk to us about your passion for the neighborhood.

Wendy Hatch: My passion for the neighborhood is ongoing. Honestly, we moved from a semidetached home to a larger home 35-years-ago and have been here ever since. Not too much land to take care of, because we still mow over here. And we’ve seen the parkway evolve from being kind of rundown, nothing too special, to nice. But in this day and age, homeowners have really taken on all their homes in the neighborhood, and are now really concerned about their friendships, their facades, their plantings. The lighting around the neighborhood is improved. And it’s really become a wonderful place for a mix of all ages and dog walkers. They’re all around here, and it’s a wonderful access to all we have. Yeah.

Lindsey DiSabatino: What was your journey to the highlands? Where did you grow up?

Wendy: Oh, that that’s a long journey. I grew up in Connecticut. And then off to college, to Syracuse University. And then further on to graduate school at Pratt Institute. And from there you graduate, you’re an artist with no place to go, no money, and no options. Which put me down on Myrtle Avenue, under the L with the train rolling by in a storefront studio with a cooperative of about five others. And we pooled our money to pay for the rent and printing presses. I was a printmaker, etching lithography. We had a little gas heater. And I was the only person ever in there. All the others never showed up. So I worked there for about a year doing a portfolio of prints and in that year, secured a job teaching printmaking at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. So, pack the U -Haul and out we went. I was married to Denison at that point. And then , after six years of teaching there, Denison took a job in Delaware. So we moved to Delaware, another U-Haul, but this time with a printing press.

I arrived with the printing press. Out it came upstairs [where] it went into a bedroom and there I began my artwork again. It’s progressed and in this house is up on the third floor. Great Light, no printing press anymore that went to the basement. And I eventually gave that to the Delaware College of Art and Design and left my printing acid and other problems behind; it’s the acids, the solvents are not healthy. So I moved past that one.

Benjamin: I’ve been pouring over written materials to try and bone up and conduct an interview worthy of your career. And just the very first few sentences really, really knock my socks off. And I hoped you could sort of translate for the layman among us that you’re “fascinated by the relationship between abstract forms in space, and intense colors and its vibration.” All I know, is that I want to be around that.

Wendy: I do too. That’s the answer. I really like color. In this day and age, when people live in neutral homes [sic] it’s fine and lovely. But we live within the color of our rooms. And secondly, in painting, I have all the privilege like this one behind me to add as much color or take it away as I want to. So color brings real positive light to me.

My printmaking instructor was an upstate moody, outgoing guy. But the artwork was very moody and sketchy and deep feeling I thought, “That’s what artists are. I’m not.”

I really liked the world around me to be a little more positive. And so I have gone that way. “Vibrations” is a fancy one, but maybe the paintings have a little bit of a vibration to them.

Lindsey: You’ve go by W.A.S. Hatch in your career. Why? And what role has gender played?

Wendy: Well, you’re asking the right question. Basically, I started as an artist in the 70s postgraduate school, and women’s movement was really hot and heavy then. And [sic]  you can’t help but be part of your own time. And that’s probably why I got hired at Bradley University. I mean, there probably six jobs in the country, and snagging a woman printmaker into one of those jobs for one of these university was considered very positive. So I did get a job.

All those men who are just as qualified as the women, they didn’t get the jobs, but I got the job. And that then launched me into a series of prints that were based on a face. And these were etchings and lithographs because I’m schooled in both of those.

BW.A.S. [stands for] Wendy and Swanson Hatch. And Hatch is a symmetrical word. If I stack my WS on top of it, and that below that, [it’s] such an interesting visual. And it also meant no one knew I stack my WS on top of it, and that below that, to me was such an interesting visual. And it also meant no one knew I was a woman. So when I made applications for jobs, I could get a response and not be told, ‘We’re not interested’ So it was really a feminist statement to initial your name, rather than to just put a full Wendy Hatch on there.

Benjamin: It’s worth noting that you snagged that Bradley job in a creative manner. Right? You made a sort of wanted poster and sort of made it distributed nationally. And that cooperative in Brooklyn was called the Apocalypse Cooperative. Is that right?

Wendy: Yes.

Benjamin: Anybody who wants to join a band called Apocalypse Cooperative, I’m in! I’ll play drums whenever you need, Wendy.

Wendy: Well, this this was a humble studio there on Brooklyn and Myrtle Avenue. But, you know, you bundled up and turned on the heater and hope nothing froze. But that was another era and after that having my own studio was really my goal in life. And so by teaching at a university, I could use their facilities and by my own printing press and set up my own press in the one bedroom apartment we lived in. Denison I slept on a convertible couch for six years, just so we could do that. So that’s that era of my life.

Coming to Wilmington, that was another era of being able to have running water; we took the kitchen sink and put it in a bedroom. And we’re talking a 1920s hung on the wall sink. I had a plumber, move it upstairs into the bedroom. And there I had a print studio!

Benjamin: What role do mentors play in your career? How have they bolstered you? And how do you how do you pay that forward?

Wendy: That’s when I really learned that there are actually artists out there, you know, growing up in suburban Connecticut is not necessarily where you’re going to bump into an artist.

And I didn’t know really what it was going to college; you met these professionals that were teaching wonderful Art School at Syracuse. But that printmaking instructor was one of these magnetic personalities. And thus I was pulled into printmaking enjoyed that that time. From there, it really became being part of a faculty of other artists in the Midwest, that also nurtured Oh, you can do this.

I ran a national print and drawing exhibition up there for three different times met tons of artists, not just from the Midwest, but all over the country. And you really were working your way into the Chicago art world of galleries, New York, a major show in New York, The Prince, and finally letting go of all that becoming a family in Wilmington [whis is] not a hotbed of art.

And it was fine with me. There were other priorities. I’m happy to be an artist, happy to live in Wilmington, a wonderful place to do everything – not just one thing from Chicago, which was the art. And so here we are in The Highlands, with really a balanced life. And I think that was ultimately my goal was to get to the balance and not be just a starving artist.

But I found opportunities here, teaching at widening University for 28 years, teaching over at the Delaware Art Museum. That was wonderful as well, meeting other artists from the Delaware Contemporary, got that up and going was part of some of the background to that.

And then I can go into cruise control, which is kind of where I am now. Others have stepped up to lead these areas. And I can just enjoy the fruits of their labors and enjoy making my own art without the weighty obligation of leading and forming groups. Really just participate without having to lead at all. And that’s pretty nice place to find yourself with time to paint and consider what you want to do.

Lindsey: You’ve worked with so many different media: printmaking, watercolor, acrylic on canvas. Which is your favorite? What shifts when you work with these different mediums?

Wendy: It changes it changes always that we’ve talked a lot about the printmaking, but that ended probably twenty years ago. And that came to a natural end health hazard and the arts are something to consider and my business.

And that was fine. Happy to put that aside, did pastels for a while on Japanese rice papers. And I had a grant to travel in Japan and brought home papers and found that drawing on those was a fascinating process that evolved to watercolor at the Delaware Art Museum, and I dabbled with watercolor that was not new to me. I never taught it. But by teaching it you I actually schooled myself to a higher level to the point where I was happy to do exclusive large, big watercolors. And those watercolors were part of my life for good 10-12 years.

And they were shown locally MBNA bought a dozen of them, over several years, decorated a whole restaurant in New York with them. And they accumulate them over a series of years. And then they looked at them all and said, Let’s put them all together. And we did that. And then from the watercolors came the idea that, you know, I’ve done this, I do it very well teach watercolor at the museum.

I enjoy all of that [and then] I moved on to easel painting or acrylic on canvas. And that has been very nice. So easy compared to watercolor, change your mind, move the colors over paint. Start with a canvas like this one, painted in orange edge to edge and then come up with the image. It’s fun, just playing fun. You go into another room.

But favorite? Come on. That one’s a tough one. It’s like having favorite children you don’t have. You just enjoy what you produced.

Lindsey: Tell us about the audience about the fabulous mural you created in your home.

Wendy: In our front hall is a mural. And when we were working on this house over a series of years, [I wondered], “What do I do with all this wall space?” And I decided, well, “I’ll paint a mural of things that are close to me.” And so there’s a painting of a ship. Denison’s family historically, is involved with early American stuff, shipping is of interest to them. Winterthur kind of pops up in another section, the Brandywine in another. And I just stepped up to the wall and painted it. The mural went up. And I forget about it; I walk right past it.

Lindsey:  How do you choose your subjects to paint? That’s a great one.

Wendy: It has to sort of just catch me something. I look at it, you just go, “Oh, I want to do that.” And some of these ideas, most of them, come from photographs. I’ll take a bunch of photographs say, “I really like the way the sun is shining in that road and reflecting.”

Or there’s a case of a painting that I have. Probably the last one I finished for the show downtown is of rooftops from my studio. And if you look at my dormer there about two years ago, there was I think it’s the holiday season, people are home, and the lights are on high. And I looked at that dormer window. I was fascinated by the lights of the neighbor’s houses, just the rooftop showing. There it is.

Yes. And I looked at that, and I thought, oh, I should go get myself on camera. Well, by the time I thought of it, the distractions of the house, I didn’t get the picture. So for the next two years, in the winter months, because there are leaves around in summer, I was out snapping pictures. And there was never a snowfall the same, [and] the lights were never the same. And so I had to keep saying well, I this is at least the architecture of it. I’m just going to have to add everything else myself and turn it back into that night scene. So some things take a long time. But it’s seeing a view, since I’ve done recently, more landscape things because that’s what I want to do.

Lindsey: What artists inspires you?

Wendy: If I go way back, it would be to France 17th century artists, Dutch artist known for portraits, these very stately looking people with big collars and black outfits on black backgrounds. That’s 17th century portraiture, not me. And what I was so fascinated by seeing back in college was his brush strokes. And I just mentioned that about the lily pads brush strokes interests me, and I can’t always get there, it’s one of those elusive things. But that guy could paint a hand and a knuckle and boom, down with four strokes. And since I’m a realist, I’ve always strived for that.

The artists that I really liked there was Janet Fish. And Janet Fish is New York artist who’s known for glass and objects, she finds that tech sales, and she’ll arrange them with light and their color and their cast shadows. I thought she was terrific, just the color world that she just burst wide open.

And if I go from there, well, then I kind of slip away into people like Alice Neil, who was an elderly painter. And Alice also just called it as she saw it no framing of beauty, etc. Andy Warhol was an example of her as she painted the famous something. He was one of the one she painted portraiture. And she’s known for portraiture.

Wow, I mean, she just did it with brushstrokes. So moving into that world, I then sort of found myself a little more isolated here in Delaware, just going down my own road, my own way, taking in this history that made the impression on me from those days.

Lindsey: What role does the neighborhood play in your body of work?

Wendy: Well, the show down at the Delaware Contemporary is called “Close to Home.” And home is telling the story about me looking out my window, down Kentmere.

Backyard snow, that looks interesting. That’s the light it casts. This painting here is a big diptych two paintings put together to make one. And the big diptych is not the Brandywine. Although it could be. We were biking down in North Carolina, and I was on a bridge looking down into the water. And I thought, “Whoa, I wonder if I could pull that off in a painting?” And I stood there and I biked back another day, took those photos. And then I played and changed it to kind of fit what I wanted. Because the photo is the starting point. The endpoint is what I do with the color or in this case, the press strips.

So I’m a homebody and so being homebody there were the years of painting still lives [when] I lived in the studio. Then moved on now to light and shadow on the Brandywine. There’s a lovely painting in the show “Brandywine Blue” of Rockford Park. Our wonderful Senator Sarah McBride has a great painting that’ll be in the show of Rockford Park and the sweaters. I usually think about it a long time before it gets the canvas . When you commit to that canvas. I don’t let go until it’s done.

Benjamin: When I pitched you this “Live,” and when you’ve given me tours and we’ve talked about your work, you’ve often demurred or deferred to a larger community of local artists. Who are your local contemporaries? And how do you support one another?

Wendy: In our Highlands, we have a good collection of artists that I will say aware under the radar. You know, we’re not hanging out with greasy black hair and rip blue jeans. But I can tell you who some of them are Graham Dougherty, around the corner He’s a painter with a studio at the Delaware contemporary. He does large abstracts that have a rectangular format to them. Ruth Amsel around the corner on Bancroft. Ruth is a small painting very delicate painter with egg tempera. Carol Spiker up on wood rogue, those wonderful figures that are set in all kinds of settings, very simple, almost look cut out. But they’re just placed perfectly composed. Bill Spiker, her husband, a sculptor. He’s welding outside. If you’re up there, you may see the sparks line and Bill out there with his welding equipment.

Next door is Caroline Brown, who does collage a variety of things. And she too has a studio down at the contemporary. So these are just some of the people that are around. Maxine Rosenthal has shared a studio she’s a middle goddess, small jewelry. And she’s here to so we’re here tucked in. We’re involved with the contemporary, the museum. We’re not. We’re all one large art community, but with different facets of it. And all of us tend to support the organizations and each other.

For additional community eventsresources and stories, please visit the Highlands Community Association website.

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