I recently visited the studio of Adrian Hatfield. Adrian’s studio is an adjacent structure he designed and built in his backyard in Detroit, MI. I have known Adrian for several years. We showed together at The Butcher’s Daughter Gallery in Ferndale, MI. We regularly run into each other at openings and have grilled and shared wine together in the very backyard I visited to see his studio.
Adrian is originally from Ohio where he received his BFA from The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH and his MFA from Ohio University in Athens, OH. Adrian moved to Detroit for a teaching position at Wayne State University.
I met Adrian around the back of his beautiful Ferndale home. Ferndale is a suburb of the city of Detroit that sits just north of the city, beginning at the famed 8-mile road on Woodward Avenue. It is a tall structure giving him high ceilings and great light to work with. The floors are poured concrete and the walls are nice, clean, newer drywall. I was first greeted by Adrian hunched over a large 4 foot square canvas he was preparing (with red oil as a ground) laid flat on a low table.
Adrian offered me some deliciously strong coffee and we started talking. Around his studio are the usual items you would expect to find in an artists workspace, a desk, bookcases filled with books on painting (I assume Adrian’s favorite artists) but the oddity that caught my attention was the stuffed rooster atop one of the bookcases. However, it’s not so much an oddity when you know what Adrian’s work is about. Situating itself in the space between art and science, naturalism and fantasy mixed with science fiction is where Adrian’s lexicon finds a home. Godzilla, taxidermy birds, prehistoric scenes of dinosaurs, pop culture references and so on. Dioramas that seem as though they would not be out of place in a museum of natural history, that is until you realize the subversion at work.
Adrian states as quoted from his statement:
My art takes its cues from visual languages developed in various scientific arenas and which are used, in part, to make huge amounts of information digestible. These include scientific illustration, museum presentation and diorama. I am interested in exploring how the reductive nature of these languages creates the comforting illusion of a more complete understanding of their subjects. Simultaneously, I borrow from the language of nineteenth-century Romantic landscape paintings and religious iconography, which also attempt to distill vast and mysterious subject matter into comprehensible portrayals.
Adrian told me that he is interested in the sublime and the romantic. I asked him about the absurdity and humor in his work. The fictions he creates in both two and three-dimensions, are so painstakingly constructed as to almost be believed. His mimetic hand is trying desperately to bring the fiction to life. I am convinced. We moved on to career talk. Adrian told me about his recent solo show at the South Bend Museum of Art and we discussed teaching. All the while I was pondering the strange worlds Adrian creates and their relation to the one we find ourselves in. I was also thinking about time, both the geological time his work seems to span as well as the time he invests in crafting his pieces. This is what always draws me in to his work.
In addition to exhibiting throughout the Detroit area, Adrian has shown his work at ARC Gallery in Chicago, and Jack the Pelican Presents in New York. He was a resident artist at both, NES Artist Residency, Skagastrond, and SIM Artist Residency, Reykjavik, Iceland. To learn more, visit his website, adrianhatfield.com