'Come on Down': New York sculptor Lisa Hoke creates large-scale works from paper cups, popcorn boxes and other recycled materials

New York sculptor Lisa Hoke's latest and largest installation will be on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art through April 13.
by Brandy McDonnell Published: December 13, 2013

On a towering wall of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art's third-floor galleries, red-and-white-striped popcorn boxes blossom into florets, purple paper plates create seductive swirls, and various cut-up paper cups transform into graceful ribbons of color.

For New York sculptor Lisa Hoke, art is a form of play, and what other people consider trash are the pieces to her large-scale puzzles.

“I never throw anything away. When I cut the cups, it has a line off the top and it has a bottom. So I brought a whole box of tops and bottoms,” Hoke said, pointing to the cream-themed corner of her monumental wall frieze, where a collection of cup bottoms creeps down the wall to a festive cluster of top strips.

“I have to be really careful on my way home on recycling night not to dig through people's bag, because it's really astonishing how beautiful the colors are,” she admitted with a laugh.

Hoke's new site-specific installation “Come on Down” debuts Friday at the museum, which also is opening the new contemporary exhibit “Chuck Close: Works on Paper.”

“It's exciting to showcase contemporary art — and particularly unique contemporary installations — at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art because it's showing our visitors … the art of our time and the unique manner in which an artist can become inspired by a space,” said curator Jennifer Klos.

“When we work with living artists and they actually come to the museum to install the piece, it's such an exciting and gratifying time to see an installation come to life and to actually watch the artist in her creative spirit and vision.”

Hidden beauty

For Hoke, 61, the creative vision begins with everyday life. The Virginia native started her three-decade art career working in cast iron, wire and automobile parts, eventually transitioning into her current medium: mass-produced cardboard found in consumer culture.

“I've always worked with found material: I've gone from working with thread and buttons to used baby food jars when my son was little. Anything that I could find and buy, usually inexpensively, in modules that repeat,” she said last week as she was installing “Come on Down.”

“I've always liked taking things out of my everyday life and transferring them into my art. That's just my natural way of thinking. Even when I was casting — I did casting in iron — I cast vegetables. … It's not about trying to find an art material to make art out of; it's trying to find a material that makes sense to me, where I'm looking for a kind of hidden beauty in it.”

She doesn't have to look far among the carefully yet spontaneously arrayed collection of french fry sleeves, liquor packages and chocolate wrappers to find something beautiful: an orange-and-white striped cheesecake box from the famous Junior's in New York City.

“I just think those are works of art. Some advertising I get the feeling is not done just to sell something. … You know, there's a certain kind of advertising like Junior's that's about identity and about recognition. And generations of people, if they change that design, it would upset people,” she said.

Shifting from the orange section into the brown area of her frieze, a patch of brownie mix boxes reminds her of one winter when her son, Matthew, went through “the brownie stage.”

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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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