We had the good fortune of connecting with Hopeton St.Clair Hibbert Jr. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hopeton St.Clair, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in Plainfield New Jersey and raised in the suburbs of Hillsborough NJ. Hillsborough was a town where parents from inner cities moved to give their children a different life. I and my comrades I grew up with were able to explore and flourish as children without the many obstacles the inner cities often possess. Also I was now in the mix with other ethnic backgrounds that over time made me more comfortable navigating different circles as I grew into a man. My mother raised me with the understanding that one should be able to flourish in any environment from the hood to the whitehouse and my experiences as a child definitely helped to hone that social dexterity.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a photography-based mixed media artist. Most of my work starts with a photograph. I bought my first camera back in the mid-nineties and did a lot of experimentation before finally discovering that I gravitated more to still life abstractions. I capture everyday objects from obscure angles in unusual lighting, which allows the mundane to become mysterious, ethereal, and metaphysical. I finish my images with transparent mediums that not only add depth and texture but at the same time make the pieces last without the need of putting them behind the glass. Because I enjoy working with my hands, I build my own panels and frames for my art. I also have a couple of sculpture series in the making.
In 2018 my work was accepted for the first time to an exhibition, which gave me an opportunity to share walls with other talented artists. I began meeting and collaborating with others, visiting exhibitions and galleries. I wanted to continue being selected to show my work in Atlanta galleries, the key to which, as I learned, was to have a solid portfolio of at least thirty pieces. For the rest of that year, I focused on doing just that. I worked diligently and prolifically, at times working on several bodies of work simultaneously. By the end of 2018, I had more than thirty pieces of finished work. As of today, I have my art shown in exhibitions in New York and Atlanta. My “Veer through the profound” series is currently on display at Jennifer Balcos Gallery.
I started my professional career as a chef and helmed kitchens of several restaurants in Atlanta for 20 years. Outside of it being a highly creative occupation, working in the restaurant teaches you how to properly plan and execute, it teaches you discipline and organization skills. I used these tools to stay focused and efficient in my work.
The art world isn’t an easy realm to operate in: it’s costly and the cost is not recoupable until the art is sold. To sell your work, you need to have a lot of eyes on it frequently! Drawing parallel again with the culinary world, many artists focus on one discipline similar to a chocolatier who chooses to specialize in making great truffles. As a chef, I have never had one cuisine that I preferred. Creating diverse and imaginative menus and hosting my own dinner parties was my thing. The same applies to my art. While there are always consistent underlying themes, my series are different. Today I have three different photo art and two sculpture series. I’m hoping that this allows me entry into various galleries so if one doesn’t like “this” maybe they’ll like “that”.
Overall, I find, art is subjective and personality plays a part also. People want great art but also appreciate the artist’s character, so being personable and able to talk up your art is a great asset. Being that I do everything in-house I believe I separate myself from others with my craftsmanship and want to be known for beautiful well made fine artwork.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Funny I was just thinking about this recently when a friend mentioned coming to Atlanta. If I had to prepare a week of adventure for an out of towner I’d begin with a trip to Dekalb Farmers Market, we’d go for a nice food tour to stock up on groceries for some yummy dinners. Peter Street is good for evening walks and vibes. Buford Highway is always good for lunch runs at Lee’s bakery for pho and banh mi sandwiches. Then hit up Buckhead for a trip to the malls. The history of Old Fourth Ward and Auburn Avenue is always good to explore including Dr. Martin King’s home. Followed by a nice stroll down the Beltline to hit Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park. Evenings atop Claremont Hotel are really cool and if one’s up for it, the actual Claremont Lounge is a hoot. Atlanta has grown and, depending on the night, has a lot going on. I love this city!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Many situations and people have helped me get to where I am today but if I had to mention one person I’d have to say my fiancé Oksana Romankova. Besides being a provider of encouragement and the mother of my two sons, she’s quite the realist and extremely organized helping me focus and be more orderly in my discipline. Beyond that, she’s really allowed me to explore my artistic nature by being the breadwinner for the family. In return, I’ve been able to focus on taking care of the household and our family while sharpening my artistic elements. I’m very fortunate to have found a partner who understands my artist’s mind, appreciates my spontaneity, and supports my passion.
Head shots by Jonathan Banks