Contemporary Reactions: Karen Hodgin-Jones’ “Tug (Float)”

stephanie-adjunct-2My conversation with Sophie*, a New York native, was as insightful as it was brief. Sophie is a student in New York, but is spending her summer in Salt Lake City as an intern for the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah. She studies both art and the sciences, and her primary art-making media of choice are glass, metal, light, and paper.

With a background equally divided between arts and sciences, it’s no surprise that when Sophie made a visit to UMOCA, a certain kinetic sculpture caught her eye. This piece, entitled Tug (Float) is created by Karin Hodgin-Jones and comprises fabric, wood, string, and a 12-volt DC motor. Tug uses strings attached to fabric to create a series of hills and valleys that are continuously undulating and reshaping, thanks to the constantly rotating motor.

We talked about the implications of the piece—in which its mechanical aspect has complete control over the movement of the more organic- and natural-looking cloth below—and how humankind has held such a pervasive control over the environment. Sophie discussed how the fabric could be interpreted as a metaphor for humanity’s impact on the world.

“The arts are a weird thing: awesome to do, but not always great for the environment,” said Sophie. For example, a hot shop, where artists have an opportunity to blow glass and create beautiful glass-based sculptures, requires a great deal of fuel for upkeep. “The carbon footprint is huge,” Sophie noted, going on to remark on how interesting it is that when we act upon the very human urge to create art, we can sometimes also cause ripple effects to our environment. That’s where pieces like Hodgin-Jones’ come in: Tug (Float) is not only entrancing to watch, but it also helps to initiate important conversations and to bring our contemporary world into new light.

Written by Stephanie Southwick-Hickey

Adjunct examines the current state of wage disparity, lack of benefits and power that exists within the university system through a survey of artists who are in various stages of their adjunct teaching careers.

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* Name changed to respect Sophie’s request that her name not be attached to her statements.