Interview with Michelle Hinebrook

Born in Michigan in 1977, Michelle Hinebrook is a contemporary artist living in Brooklyn, New York, best-known for her abstract paintings and glass sculptures. 

Her work explores geometric abstraction, lending a new perspective to our emotions, memory, perception and sensory experiences. Her paintings are a study of light and movement, subverting the way we see what’s in front of us. Her paintings reflect an intense interest in new media, color theory, visual perception and natural patterns.

Various institutions have invited Hinebrook to serve as visiting artist/critic or lecturer, including the College for Creative Studies, College Art Association, Pratt Institute, University of Michigan, BGS University, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Artist Space, Parsons, Western Carolina University, and Nurture Art.

Hinebrook exhibits regularly, including shows at 101 / Exhibit (Los Angeles, CA) Ground Floor Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), David Klein Gallery (Birmingham, MI), Foley Gallery (New York, NY) and Helen Nyborg Contemporary (Copenhagen, Denmark). Her work has been internationally exhibited, commissioned, collected, published and reviewed. Hinebrook's paintings have been featured in over 50 group exhibitions, 18 solo shows and are also included several public and corporate collections.

She is a resident artist at XO Projects in Brooklyn and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at Pratt Institute. 

AA: So, I hear you’re an artist. What was your childhood like and were you always creative?

MH: My childhood. What a big question!
During my childhood, I did not have much exposure to art. One significant "ah hah! moment" happened in the car with my mother. She taught me how to draw Snoopy, and it was mind-blowing.
My parents are not creative individuals, in my career- post BFA (College for Creative Studies) they have been very supportive, I might even say my biggest cheerleaders.
As a young person, I attended a Roman Catholic private primary school, which was miles ways from my interest in creative aspirations. There is another significant memory for me that occurred in 4th grade. I was strictly punished for drawing, and very frequently. I was often separated from my classmates and placed in the corner then slapped on my hands with a ruler. Seriously sad stuff for a little artist. Seeing evidence of my distress my parents enrolled me in public school and my world expanded into a universe of opportunities. These early creative experiences lead me to teach in public schools in Brooklyn and Queens, mostly younger artists in elementary grades. In this role, I was able to offer and nurture so many young children, teaching them that early creative experiences that can be a positive force in one’s life. I have been teaching for 17 years now, and I am currently an Associate Professor at Pratt Institute. I plan on continuing this practice for as long as I am able.

AA: Describe your workflow.

MH: My work begins with research, both visual and textual. I seek out ideas through the work of others, through my own observations and personal experiences. When I work, I write and sketch in my journal. Some of these sketches move forward into larger pieces, I scan in the drawings and print or project them into a larger scale. Many of my compositions develop from a flowing interaction between geometric elements. My most recent work has been embracing glass and metal as the primary materials. This work is closely related to the visual language in my paintings and reference the qualities of light, shape, and movement seen in my older work.
A color palette is selected based on the idea and feeling I want the piece to reflect. Then these pieces of glass are cut out individually according to my sketches. These pieces are sanded, washed and then copper foiled along the edges of each piece of glass.
Once the initial shapes are cut, I begin to construct a metal armature, which acts as the internal structure or bones of each piece. The metal architecture is integrated within the pattern of the finished piece. Once the armature is in place, I begin to build up dimensions shapes using the foiled glass pieces. Each edge is filled with a metal solder that locks each glass piece onto the surrounding pieces. I enjoy this process because it allows me to quickly build up dimensional spaces and planes.

AA: Does your process change when you’re making paintings as opposed to when you create sculptural works?

MH: Yes, it does, but the logic and thinking about both are closely related. My approach to color theory is the same, and my love of mapping space through triangles remains.

AA: What is your favorite material to use in the studio? 

MH: EVERYTHING. I love materials, I experiment constantly with new and found materials.

AA: Who or what are you listening to when you’re creating?

MH: I have been listening to audible books like crazy over the past year or so. I love getting references to books/authors I might not be familiar with, while reading/listening to a new book. I also am apart of a "critique club” called “GetOut” aka “get out of the studio and talk about your work’. We meet every two months at one of our studios, to talk about the person’s new work- but we also all read the same book in advance and discuss post-studio visit, which has turned me on to so many new authors.

AA: What are you working on right now?

MH: I’m teaching two sculptural glass classes at Urban Glass Studios in Brooklyn this spring and fall, so I am preparing for those sessions. I am also teaching two graduate classes at Pratt Institute this Spring.
In the studio, I’m exploring glass and light in the form of pendants. I’ve made four pieces so far, and I’m putting it out there on social media to gauge the response from my audience.

AA: What are you doing when you’re not making artwork in the studio?

MH: Parenting! I have two young children.

AA: Who are your favorite artists?

MH: Julie Mehretu, Olafur Eliasson, Josef Albers, Soyna Delaunay, Modernist abstraction, Cubism and futurism, geometric abstraction, color theorists.

AA: What advice would you give to an artist who is just starting out? 

MH: Make something every day and sustain your practice consistently, at what level you are able to manage.

AA: I like to think of artists making artwork the same way as chefs cooking in the kitchens. At first, it may seem intimidating, but once you gain a little confidence, the possibilities of creating tasty meals are endless. With that being said, every famous chef has a catchphrase. What’s your catchphrase in the studio? 

MH: Oh, I like this metaphor. When I’m home with my children and not making artwork, I can’t help myself, and I create new recipes to be creative.

View more of Michelle's artwork on her website and connect with her on social media through her Instagram @hinebrookstudio, Facebook, and Pinterest

"Through painting and sculpture, I study geometric scintillation patterns and white light refractions through faceted forms – radiant prismatic color across geometric planes. The use of three dimensional planes creates the experience of an image that can be negotiated physically, where surfaces extrude, angle, or recede. 

Beginning with observation, research, and assemblage of drawings, I distill compositions and geometric structures into mental, physical, and emotional spaces. Driven by geometric complexity, including patterned layers of encoded information, intricate crystallographic structures, and photographic imagery, and supported by color, I unearth new visual experiences. Color – emotional, symbolic, and cosmic – presents and both activates and reveals emotions to recall personal associations and past experiences buried deep in the subconscious. 

Intrigued with the possibilities of seeing/perceiving the worlds beyond my natural visual range, I use digital methods and optical imaging technologies/devices. This pulls back the surfaces of things and distorts imagery or reveals hidden worlds, allowing me to observe inner patterns that exist microscopically. 

I combine painting with sculptural elements to create dimensional paintings that transform physical and pictorial space. This expands the space, color, shape and pattern in my paintings, into complex 3-dimensional objects and negotiates both interior/exterior spaces to demonstrate poly-perspectivalness."