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I'm suspicious of art. I suppose I mean Art. I'm suspicious of the way that art is valorized and dismissed. I don't trust the theory of critics or art stars or buyers or those, like myself, who teach art students. I don't entirely understand why I've chosen to get an MFA, not sure why I put myself into the maw of the abyss. It's credentializing, I suppose, the search for legitimacy. I'd like to be one of those art stars. It would make things easier. If not easier, at least my life would be easier to explain. Or it would be easier to be seen? Do I mean understood? I'm not sure. All of this is hard to admit. I have to hope for more. I think I know better, but I'm trying to be frank about feeling torn.

As an undergraduate art student, a man living in the next dorm room, a talented representational painter, claimed that his goal was to be the "great visionary of the twenty-first century." As an adolescent I liked the ring of it. As an adult, I still harbor a secret desire to be that visionary. I still want to believe the arrogance of the modernist art establishment. I still want to be a big-cocked painter, a rare, gifted visionary. I still harbor a desire for my work to be a surrogate for my power and the ambition that my power might change the world.

I understand contemporary art theory. I even like it. I understand the need for work to transcend old notions of form and beauty and power. I understand conceptual frameworks and the power of intervention. Yet, I fail to understand the art industry -- museums, galleries, art schools, critics, magazines, art stars and theorists -- and its insistent distancing from the preoccupations, the very experience of people. I like to believe that I'm a democrat. I believe in the inherent value of people and trust that people, when they're invited into discourse, act well. So, again, I wonder why I've placed myself in the context of high art and its anti-democratic, rarified, and exclusionary trappings. I wonder, again, why I want to be placed, invited into the sphere of "professional artists." I'd rather tell stories; try to connect my experience with that of others. If not connect, at least offer my experience as a moment of reflection and trust the viewer to make of it what she will. I'd like my work to matter to those without degrees or money or excessive amounts of power. I suppose, I'm idealistic enough to believe that through such a process of connection one might be able to harness power and invite marginalized folks into the process of shaping discourse. One might be able to open up the process of production, of making theory to people who have been told that they lack talent or perception or relevance.

Good words, but what do I do? In short, I paint, I write, I maintain a web site. I make art to understand, explore,unpack and interrogate my experience. I try to use my practice to build a good life for myself and to teach myself to be more transparent. I came to age at the height of the AIDS epidemic and have been affected by the idea that silence equals death. Much of my life, my desire, my insights have been shielded from the world because systems of thought, discourses that define my world have led me to believe that speaking my truth is dangerous. My practice, as a person and an artist, seeks to destabilize the insistent, editing, internalized voice that tells me to "remember my place." I believe that living out loud, making my experience transparent might offer an example, might allow hope to people who share the queerness of my desires; might let them know that they are not alone in a way that I did not know. If my work, my example isn't that grand, so be it. It is enough that I am learning from the process. It's enough that I might experience a bit more joy.

What follows are examples of my work, my process and some insights I've gleaned from working.

Peter Hocking

Providence, Rhode Island

7 October 2002