Scott Hove is a savage. One time a Grizzly Bear asked Scott Hove how to survive the winter. His reply? “It’s easy, just don’t be such a pussy.” One time the Hulk asked Scott Hove for a band-aid. His reply? “Here’s some super glue, don’t be such a pussy.” Real stories.
But really, Scott Hove has an incredible story to tell, I’m honored to have been able to read the small window he’s provided, you should read it too (featured previously back in April 2010 and in EK TOP 100 of 2010)!
What part of San Francisco are you from?
I was born in San Francisco, and grew up in Marin County, just on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge. Marin is very bucolic, and I had miles of hills and forests to explore. Starting in about the first grade I would disappear into the woods and learn about events that happen in nature, beautiful and ugly.
What inspired you to take cakes and turn them vicious?
When I was a kid, there was a store on Union Street in San Francisco that sold large-scale fake food. I couldn’t believe it, the absurdity and undeniable attraction these objects possessed. In about 2005 I tried my hand at making fake cakes, and they instantly shared that weird attractive quality that I saw on Union st. But they were just fake food. I thrust a jawset into one of my favorite cakes during a frustrated rage- and the first actual sculpture was born.
What source material (if there is any) do you use when designing the jaws and mouths?
For source material I depend on the experts- the taxidermists that have been making realistic snarls for decades. The taxidermy catalogue is among the most commonly poured-over literature around my shop. Some cakes demand a particular form of menace, say a knifelike baboon scream with tongue and throat. Well, there are folks in the world doing casts of the real thing, and you can’t beat that.
Do you make your sculptures from scratch? Where do you get your supplies?
My sculptures and installations are cobbled together with whatever suitable material is around. As they have gotten more complex though, I have had to turn to more specialized materials, like sculptable polyurethane foam. This allows for complex curves and detail. The frosting is done with a mix of various acrylic media.
Can you tell us about you process from beginning to end?
My process can be pretty diverse. At times I don’t know what the form will be until I begin carving. Other times I have a pretty solid idea of what should be done and just flesh out the concept. The base form is usually pretty plain, and it is the frosting where the magic takes place. I paint the form with a generous layer of thickened acrylic paint, then take traditional cake decorator’s tools and go to town with specially mixed acrylic gel media. The cherries and teeth and whatever else go into the mix happen during this stage. Then I sit there and look at it for about three days, which is when the next piece begins to materialize in my head.
How has your art changed from when you first began?
My art has changed in many ways throughout my life, but the motivating factor always stays the same. I have a drive to create a transcendental experience for myself by making material something that I want to see and touch that should exist and doesn’t. And in the end I feel like I have done a service to myself and to others. Unless of course the piece sucks, then it gets cast unceremoniously into the dumpster. I usually bat about 85%.
How long have you been working on sculpture/installation/painting?
I started drawing better than most kids at school in the 4th grade. By the time I graduated high school in 1987 I realized that there was really no other choice but to take it to its final outcome, because I lacked the attention and interest in most other fields of study. By the time I was 18 I was doing large-scale painting, and in about 1992 I began carving stone and wood, and realized I was just as capable in 3D. Designing environments had always been interesting to me, and after seeing a Bill Viola show I really started to see the potential for capturing the viewer and making them a crucial part of the installation. I studied stage design and lighting on my own, and began doing collaborative works with my friend and colleague Erik Groff. Erik would make entire cities out of trash found in our neighborhood of West Oakland. He would then leave them anonymously on some god forsaken corner and utilize the burned cars, shoes, and whatever else was laying around. These experiences led to the first Cakeland installations, in about 2005.
What’s the most rewarding project you’ve worked on? Can you tell us about it?
The most rewarding project I had in the recent past was the Cake Vault, commissioned for a temporary show at the San Jose Museum of Art. At the time I was working full time for the Conservation Corps managing teams of at-risk inner city young people. We would do stuff like clean up homeless encampments under bridges, and do landscaping work on median strips along the Oakland freeway. We disposed of tens of thousands of used needles from very dark and dirty roadside junkie havens. Simultaneously, my mother was dying from cancer, and I had to be present for that. It seemed impossible to complete the piece in time for the show, but my reputation as an emerging artist was at stake. On the day the installation was completed, I quit my job and moved into my mom’s house to see her through everything. The piece was very well received, and led to some crucial opportunities to create a real fan base. That was in 2009.
What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced during your career as an artist? How have you benefited from it?
The most difficult challenge continues to be survival during the lean times. I don’t have any outside support and have to fund most of my own projects with a pretty wide and weird array of job skills. I have worked as a ship chandler, delivering goods to the ports around the SF bay. I can drive a forklift, do deliveries in a big truck, haggle with foreign ship captains. I have worked on tugboats as a deckhand, nearly losing limbs on many occasions. I sometimes work as a traditional ship rigger, and can splice just about any kind of rope or wire. I’m a blacksmith and metal fab guy when I need to be. I’m also very adept at trimming pot, there is usually a lot of work to be found there. The benefit of all of this is that I can have faith in myself to be adaptable, and know what I am capable of outside the the oftentimes limiting self-identity of Scott the Artist.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got? “Scott, go get a job that will make you happy” or “An artist in your position does not have very good chances” or even the stony dead silences you are met with 95% of the time when reaching out to galleries and curators. It’s more like ‘What’s the best advice you never got?’ That would be to hang in there, and to do whatever it takes to keep up your art practice. Then participate with the arts community with confidence and gratitude.
What new developments/direction do you anticipate for the respective fields of installation art, sculpture and painting?
As far as new developments are concerned, each direction (painting, sculpture, installations) is really charging ahead. If I can stay abreast with the show demands I am facing, (in Seattle, LA and in SF) painting is going especially smoothly. I just finished my largest Cakeland installation to date in Shreveport, Louisiana. I am hoping to leverage that piece to get access to more mid-level museums across the country and abroad. There is a long-term plan to do a very large-scale permanent rope sculpture on the San Francisco waterfront, details of which will remain secret for now. I have specific ideas for all of the great museum locations around the world, I’m hoping that good luck, faith and hard work will get me to them.
How do you intend to react to keep up or stay ahead of the curve/relevant?
Staying relevant is an interesting point. I am more interested in long-lasting value than immediate punch. I try to deal with classical rather than transitory issues in my art, because it is more lasting. Being in touch with world and national events and culture is crucial, as is staying in touch with the rhythms of nature. Keeping your personal opinion out of your art is usually a good idea too, unless your success relies on controversy. Ultimately, though, you have no control of staying ahead of the curve. It is the times/circumstances that make the man or woman, not the other way around. You just need to work to your greatest capacity and try not to become enslaved by all of the comfortable habits that will make you slow.
Has anyone ever asked you to design their wedding cake?
I decorated my cousin Jesse’s wedding cake, and it was beautiful, but the buttercream barely survived the hot mid-western summer. I leave the real baking to the experts.
What’s the your favorite kind of cake? What about ice cream?
My favorite kind of cake is princess cake. I am comfortable enough with my masculinity to admit it. Oooh, so creamy and cool. I also prefer rocky road ice cream.
Whom do you count among your influences?
My influences, and how they manifest, are constantly in flux. In high school it was M.C. Escher, later it was the art of the western pacific region. All kinds of traditional art, primitive or extremely refined. Mexican art of every type. Anything that challenges expectations. Misinterpretation is valuble, too. I have become obsessed with works that I saw when I was driving by, unable to study them properly. I would sulk home and work until I matched them in quality. I would have a chance later to observe the work more closely and realize that what I saw was a shadow across an ad or something. Major breaks can happen this way, so I stay close to chance.
What’s next for you?
The most immediate artistic challenge is to drive my giant cake chandelier 900 miles to Roq la Rue gallery in Seattle in two days from now. I have a fever of 104 right now. Bring it on bitches!!