WSU fine artist explores ‘internet addiction’ with paintings

Artwork displayed in a gallery
Hedges' new works will be exhibited at Artworks Gallery in Loveland, Colorado, Nov. 8–Dec. 18, and at Chase Gallery in Spokane, Wash., Jan. 3–March 25.

Washington State University fine arts faculty member Joe Hedges has been thinking hard about the slash in his title: Assistant Professor of Painting/Intermedia.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity with that slash,” Hedges said. “Is it painting or intermedia, painting and intermedia, or paintings that are both painting and incorporate other media? I have basically been trying it all.”

Among Hedges’ latest artworks are oil paintings of beautiful landscapes but with a twist. They incorporate flat screen televisions, smart phones or other objects to become what he calls “Hypercombines” — paintings that are connected to the internet.

“I started thinking about this buzz phrase that was going around a few years ago, ‘the internet of things,’ and asking myself why couldn’t an oil painting be part of the internet of things? What would that look like?” he asked.

Those questions have inspired and informed several of his new works to be exhibited at Artworks Gallery in Loveland, Colorado, Nov. 8–Dec. 18, and at Chase Gallery in Spokane, Wash., Jan. 3–March 25.

Art earns internal and external grants

This has been a big year for Hedges.

He recently co-led an innovative public art project that combined art and chemistry research to create educational and interactive murals at Kamiak Elementary School in Pullman.

Closeup of Joe Hedges.
Joe Hedges

In addition, to support local, regional and national exhibitions of his art, he was awarded both a New Faculty Seed Grant from the College of Arts and Sciences and an arts and humanities fellowship from the new Center for Arts and Humanities at WSU. He also received an external Innovate Grant and a GAP (Grants for Artist Projects) Grant from Artist Trust, a Washington nonprofit group that supports the fine arts.

The awards helped defray costs for materials, including paint and media objects, as well as costs for shipping the art to shows.

Hedges also recently presented his new works in a gallery of the Fine Arts Building where he works at WSU Pullman.

“The paintings with the screens invite reflection on a time before smart phones, before being so plugged-in,” he said.

“We are basically all addicted to the internet. I am probably of the last generation that will remember a time before the internet. In some ways these works are about working through what it means in my own life to be sleeping with my phone, to be constantly answering emails and posting to social media. Painting is a way for me to slow down and to reflect. At the same time, I wanted to make an exhibition that positions painting in a contemporary context.”

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