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Local artist offers collage in ‘ice cream colors’

Published 11:05am Thursday, February 20, 2014

Scott Hatt is a rather shy — at times almost reclusive — yet artistically forceful artist who has been working for nearly 40 years. His primary mediums are collage, assemblage and painting.

I have known Hatt for many years and have come to regard him highly not only for his artwork, but also for his curatorial skills. Hatt was the owner of a very popular South Bend gallery called the Spurious Fugitive, which closed in 2009 after three-plus years. It was described as a “post-modernist gallery,” but also showed avant-garde work and represented a small stable of artists.

Hatt was raised in a small town near Ann Arbor. About his childhood, he states, “The nuclear family model of Dr. Benjamin Spock and Donna Reed were the norms I grew up in.”

This statement will give you your first clue about Hatt’s work as an artist.

“The visual shift from black and white television to color television was but one of the visual cultural shifts that I experienced while coming of age in the late-1960s, and early ‘70s,” he said.

“The drives to leave ‘my little town’ led me on a 10-year sojourn during which I had multiple studios in multiple locales in the states and abroad,” he said. “Along the way I encountered terrific art, and terrific artists. When I finally settled in South Bend in 1985 I found ‘home.’”

I met with Hatt at Monroe Street Studios in South Bend to discuss an upcoming contemporary show. Entering his studio on the second floor, I was met with a literal collage of colorful works on the walls. The brightly colored paintings, collages, and small wooden box-collages, covered every inch of wall space and every small bit of floor space along the walls.

The place screams of ice cream color. Everywhere I looked I saw the happy faces of innocent children playing ball or running, painted acrylic backgrounds, 1940s automobiles and collages. It quite literally was overwhelming to see them all together in that small studio. I had to take a few minutes to just pivot around on one foot.

Hatt uses original ephemera from which he clips images of children, objects, vintage maps, automobile and especially loves using children’s reading books featuring “Spot” and “Dick and Jane.”

Describing his own work, Hatt wrote, “Grounded in solid design principles, color theory, and art history, I consider my works to be documents of the postmodern in the manner of naive graphic surrealism. Creating conceptual works that provoke a drive to narration — in the viewer and myself — has created a self-reflexive body of work.

“Dr. Susan B. Hood, a friend and mentor, once described my work as, ‘operating in the space between the throne of St. Peter and an ice cream sundae. I think she may be right. Acceptance, appreciation, and validation for my works have lead to numerous and increasingly satisfying experiences for me over the past several years of exhibiting. We all have stories to tell. This work is the way that I tell mine.”

Having been selective about exhibitions in past years, Hatt is eager to work with curators and jurors who “get” his work. Hatt has shown his work occasionally through the years, often at the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, or the South Bend Museum of Art. He has a following of collectors, and his prolific body of work makes its way one by one from his little Monroe Street studio, often as soon as they are dry.

“This has proven to be a most satisfactory adventure. The collectors of my work provide me the opportunity to engage in dialogs about their collections, my work and art as a whole. I must say that I am having an awful lot of fun these days.”

Hatt’s work is indeed an adventure. You will feel several things immediately upon seeing his work. First, especially for those of us who were born in the 1950s, you will be transported to those innocent days of your youth. Secondly, you will feel the calming force of those pastel colors at work on the stresses of your day. “What meeting? What deadline? Let’s just run and play!” Then, you will feel the curiosity and excitement that comes from seeing children and parents excitedly driving over vintage maps in their vintage automobiles toward their vintage vacations, from seeing little boxes in pinks and yellows and mint green acrylics filled with moments in time.

You can see it — and feel it — all in February at the Clark Gallery, Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles, in The Contemporary Show.

 

You can reach Kathee Kiesselbach at katheek@comcast.net.

 

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