When I first viewed Cindy Hinant's work, The Kissy Girls, it made me uncomfortable. There is a big void in the representation of girls discussing their own explorations of sexuality and intimacy, but books and movies of boys traversing the exact same subject matter exists ad infinitum. This project was unusual and that made me uneasy. My uneasiness led me to ask a lot of questions, both of myself and also of Cindy.
During your research, you consume and digest the underbelly of popular media - reality TV, gossip magazines, and paparazzi tabloid shots of pop stars without makeup. How do you cleanse your palate between projects? Or does desensitization set in after a while?
I don’t feel desensitized to pop culture at all, and would actually say I’m overly sensitive to certain types of media. I do try to manage my media intake so that it’s targeted consumption rather than a continuous stream of information. For example, I almost don’t listen to music anymore because I can’t listen to it passively. When I listen to music I am always thinking about its function or structure, part of this comes from having been a DJ in my early twenties. Instead I often listen to television when I’m drawing or working on other things. I think listening to television is easier than listening to music because of the linear narrative. Reality television is repetitive, there are previews, recaps, and confessionals that recount plot lines so it’s nearly impossible to loose track of the story. In reality shows like Mob Wives, the plot escalates to a big moment or fight, and for the next two episodes all the characters do is talk to each other about the fight that already happened. I also like to listen to sitcoms because they follow predictable narratives that rarely stray outside of what is familiar. I find that listening to television rather than watching it is a good way to discover patterns and concepts that might be overshadowed by visual information. The reduction of information has been a cornerstone of my work and I’m interested in isolating moments from popular media in order to start a conversation about their social significance.
I read that you once received “a coat hangar and scotch tape” for Christmas, which sounds like a good title for a short story about botched abortions. Describe your upbringing and how it has or has not influenced your work as an artist.
I should clarify that it was a turquoise coat rack from my grandparents, who thought it would help me “keep my clothes off the floor” and the scotch tape was from my mom so that I “wouldn’t have to borrow hers.” In their minds these were extra presents that they just happened to give us on Christmas day, but my sister Natalie and I (she received the same things) were both devastated and felt totally cheated by these functional gifts. My dad didn’t pay much child support, and my mom was in school so we were broke and generally had lousy presents, like the year our dad opened all the cards we got from relatives and stole all the Christmas money we had received. We grew up in Indiana and I have two sisters, Natalie is five years younger, and Bonnie is eleven years younger (our dad remarried to her mom). I think I was in first grade when my parents divorced, and after this we moved in with my grandparents. My grandfather was a minister and my grandmother was a secretary who also led the church hand bell choir. I identify as a “PK,” meaning pastor’s kid, which has the stereotypical extremes of being perfect and being a rebel or troublemaker. My grandparents are pretty open minded, but I still feel uncomfortable when they see my work; sex and pornography are not really acceptable conversation topics in the Christian retirement community where they live.
Almost everyone in my family has some kind of craft or skill. My parents had a poetry zine called “The Unicorn” that they worked on together before I was born, my grandfather is a hobby glass blower, my grandmother sews, and I have cousins and aunts who make jewelry. It wasn’t really a surprise to anyone that I became an artist, I think what was strange or surprising for my family was that I decided to make a career out of it. Growing up, my sisters and I spent a lot of time unsupervised, none of the adults around us were very hands-on, and they all worked a lot, so we had a lot of time to ourselves for unstructured play which encouraged creativity.