Interview with Trenton Doyle Hancock, 2013 Greenfield Prize Winner

Winner of the 2013 Greenfield Prize for visual art, Trenton Doyle Hancock, talks with Tim Jaeger about his work and what this prestigious award means to him.

Influenced by the history of painting, especially Abstract Expressionism, Trenton Doyle Hancock transforms traditionally formal decisions—such as the use of color, language, and pattern—into opportunities to create new characters, develop sub-plots, and convey symbolic meaning. Hancock’s paintings often rework Biblical stories that the artist learned as a child from his family and local church community. Balancing moral dilemmas with wit and a musical sense of language and color, Hancock’s works create a painterly space of psychological dimension.

Winner of the 2013 Greenfield Prize for visual art, Trenton Doyle Hancock, talks with Tim Jaeger about his work and what this prestigious award means to him.

Trenton Doyle Hancock Portrait
Trenton Doyle Hancock Portrait

sVA: What is your fondest memory of growing up around the church?

TDH: My fondest memory of growing up around the church was probably the sense of community and also the music. I looked forward to going to church, often times it was three times a week. I saw it as an extension of I was at home doing creative things- drawing and painting, cartoons- things like that then I got to go to church and exercise yet another side of my creativity and I feel like I brought what I learned from that back home to the other stuff I was doing.

sVA: How important is knowing how to draw?

TDH: I guess I would say its more important for an artist to know how to see- and that is more important than knowing how to draw. Learning how to translate the things in your environment through your eye and into your hand and onto a surface is a way of ordering your intellect. Becoming better acquainted with your body and your mind, so I think there is a fair amount of importance.

sVA: What do you think about egos? Can you comment on your ego? Can you comment on your alter ego in your art?

TDH: I think the word ego automatically has a negative slant to it. In some ways it’s justified, it’s the thing you have to keep in check in order to maintain some kind of balance. I think in regards to artists you need to have an ego or you will get eaten up. I protect mine. I try not to let it get out of control and that is why I have a character called, Torpedo Boy, like the superhero. He represents how I can experiment with scenarios and get the better of somebody. Not only does he have a hyper ego that is out of control ego but he is also super strong, he’s fast and infused with all these powers that normal humans don’t have so he can wreak more havoc with others. He’s just sort of a powder cake.

U Now Enliven A Test..., 2012
Trenton Doyle Hancock, U Now Enliven A Test…, 2012

sVA: How do you feel about having an audience? What do you want viewers from your exhibits to take with them after viewing your works?

TDH: I just want them to feel and see something that they have not seen before, and I can’t really dictate what they are going to see in the work because everyone brings their own baggage to the table. I just try to make a work that is layered enough that is always giving something. Even the most indoctrinated audiences will come in and see something special, and the test for that is that I don’t really think about the audience at all because I am the audience. If I can surprise myself then I feel like that goal has been met and the by product of that is that other people have been surprised, hopefully.

sVA: What is your favorite toy?

TDH: It is hard to say what is my favorite. It changes from week to week, but there are things that are constants. There are relics from my childhood that are always somewhere near me. There is weird balloon lamp with a clown on it that was mine when I was a kid that was my night light.

sVA: I remember seeing those when I was little.

TDH: Ya, that lamp and those colors, really, I think have stuck with me like the primary and secondary colors- there is just something about that. The plastic it is made out of I really respond to now—like these things are not good for the environment, but they are good for my soul. I don’t know where to draw the difference, or draw the line between something that does not degrade. Or maybe that is the line, or the similarity. Plastic does not degrade in the environment, but somehow in my aesthetics its constant.

The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a Cinchin', 2012
Trenton Doyle Hancock, The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a Cinchin’, 2012

sVA: You collect things. Are you a collector of objects or a big fan of recycling?

TDH: I collect things and I do recycle, but I am not that much of an environmentalist so that seems to be another whole question. I collect culture, so that usually consists of objects of all kinds, art, and documentation of all kinds. That could be from found signs on the side of the road, trash, and I also collect paintings. I like to trade paintings with friends or with artists I respect, and sometimes I outright buy them from auctions or thrift shops. I have this pretty intense archive of cultural output.

sVA: Do you have any comments about the Hermitage and receiving the Greenfield Prize?

TDH: I feel very honored to have received this award and looking back on the caliber of people that have received this award in the past I feel like I am in great company. You know there is a lot of pressure to perform in the face of knowing the other peoples track records, not necessarily with the Hermitage, but with what they have contributed to their own fields and I am like “Wow, I really have to come in here and do something out of the ordinary.” There is a lot of faith that they have in me and I feel an obligation to the institution, and the prize, and to the legacy. I feel like I am in a good place and I am happy that they trust me enough to have that next to my name.

As a part of the Greenfield Prize weekend, rising contemporary artist and recent recipient of the 2013 Greenfield Prize, Trenton Doyle Hancock, will be presented with his award at the annual award dinner. For a list of events visit http://hermitageartistretreat.org

SANFORD BIGGERS: Codex

March 30, 2012 – October 14, 2012
On view at Ringling Museum – Sanford Biggers uses the study of ethnological objects, popular icons, and the Dadaist tradition to explore cultural and creative syncretism, art history, and politics.

March 30, 2012 – October 14, 2012
Ringling Museum of Art

Featured Visiting Artist – View Interview ‎Friday, March 30 at 3:30 pm, Sanford Biggers will present “Speaking of My Work,” in the Ringling College Auditorium. This talk is FREE and open to the public.


A native of Los Angeles, California, and current New York resident, Sanford Biggers uses the study of ethnological objects, popular icons, and the Dadaist tradition to explore cultural and creative syncretism, art history, and politics. An accomplished musician, Biggers often incorporates performative elements into his sculptures and installations, resulting in multilayered works that act as anecdotal vignettes, at once full of wit and clear formal intent. Biggers has won several awards including: The Creative Time Travel Grant, Creative Capital Project Grant, New York Percent for the Arts Commission, Art Matters Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts Award in performance art/multidisciplinary work, the Lambent Fellowship in the arts, the Pennies From Heaven/ New York Community Trust Award, Tanne Foundation Award, Rema Hort Mann Foundation Award Grant, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Camille Hanks-Cosby Fellowship.

Mr. Biggers has also participated in several prestigious national and international artist residencies and fellowships including; Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California, ARCUS Project Foundation, Ibaraki, Japan, and the Art in General/ Trafo Gallery Eastern European Exchange in Budapest, Hungary. He has been a fellow of the Socrates Sculpture Park Residency, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council World Views AIR Program, the Eyebeam Atelier Teaching Residency, the Studio Museum AIR Program, the P.S. 1 International Studio Program, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture residency.

Sanford Biggers
"Sweet Funk—An Introspective" at the Brooklyn Museum

Sanford Biggers’ installations, videos, and performances have appeared in venues worldwide including the Tate Britain and Tate Modern, London, the Whitney Museum and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, as well as institutions in China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Poland and Russia. Sanford has been included in several notable shows such as Prospect 1/ New Orleans Biennial, Illuminations at the Tate Modern, Performa 07, the Whitney Biennial and Freestyle at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has also had solo exhibitions at Grand Arts, Kansas City, Mary Goldman Gallery, Los Angeles, Kenny Schachter’s ROVE gallery, London, Triple Candie, New York, D’Amelio Terras Gallery, New York, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Matrix/Univ.of Berkeley Museum, Berkeley, Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw as well as venues in Hungary, Indonesia, Japan.

This exhibition is the result of the Greenfield Prize commission awarded in 2010 by the Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Greenfield Foundation.

Prize Weekend Includes Free Events with International Arts Leaders

“The Greenfield Prize is one of the most important arts award in the country,” continued Rodgers, “and it happens here is Sarasota. Our list of winners includes some of the most exciting artists working today. The Hermitage Artist Retreat could not be more proud or excited about this endeavor. We look forward to an amazing weekend and we hope the community will take advantage of this incredible opportunity to meet and hear these extraordinary people.”

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, along with the Greenfield Foundation, are pleased to announce a schedule of events during what has become the Greenfield Prize Weekend. FREE talks and panel discussions include time for the public to meet and interact with prizewinners, as well as internationally known arts leaders. The weekend, beginning on Friday, March 30st and culminating on Sunday, April 1st, includes a talk by 2010 Greenfield Prize winner visual artist Sanford Biggers; a discussion of music and art with Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Executive Producer Joe Melillo, Designer Anne Patterson and Robert Spano, conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and Artistic Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School; the award presentation dinner featuring the 2012 Greenfield Prize winner Vijay Iyer and keynote speaker Robert Spano. Biggers talk and the arts discussion are free; tickets to the dinner are $150.

Sanford Biggers
Sanford Biggers

“In only four short years, we have transformed our Greenfield Prize Celebration from a wonderful dinner where we present the prestigious Greenfield Prize,” explained Bruce E. Rodgers, Hermitage executive director, “to an entire weekend of interesting events, many of which are free to the public. Just as we share our artists who are in residence, we are now able to share amazing producers, creators and other arts leaders who come from near and far to participate in honoring the Greenfield Prize winner.”

Robert Spano
Robert Spano

The Greenfield Prize Weekend begins on Friday, March 30 when Sanford Biggers’ 2010 Greenfield Prize Commission is first available to be seen by the public. The work will be on display in the Ulla Searing wing at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, available to all museum visitors. At 3:30 pm, Sanford Biggers will present “Speaking of My Work,” in the Ringling College Auditorium. This talk is FREE and open to the public. Sunday, April 1st offers another opportunity to hear renowned arts leaders share their experience and expertise. “A Creative Conversation: Music and Art—Blurring the Boundaries” will be an exchange among Joseph V. Melillo, executive producer of Brooklyn Academy of Music, Anne Patterson, Designer and Robert Spano, music director Atlanta Symphony and Aspen Music Festival and School. Linda Golding, former president and CEO of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers, will moderate. This event takes place from 2:00 to 3:00 pm in Holley Hall at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. It is also FREE.

Joe Melillo
Joe Melillo

The final event of the weekend is the much-anticipated Greenfield Prize Award Dinner on Sunday evening. The 2012 winner is Vijay Iyer, a Grammy-nominated composer/pianist described by Pitchfork as “one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today,” by The New Yorker as one of “today’s most important pianists…extravagantly gifted…brilliantly eclectic,” and by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star.” He was voted the 2010 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, and named one of the “50 Most Influential Global Indians” by GQ India. Iyer will play a short piece, as well as speak about his work and the opportunity the award gives to him. In addition, this year’s keynote speaker will be Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony and the Aspen Music Festival and School Robert Spano. Mr. Spano has been called one of the brightest and most imaginative conductors of his generation. The evening promises to be one to remember. Tickets are $150 for individuals and $250 for patrons. Reservations can be made online at www.greenfieldprize.org.

Anne Patterson
Anne Patterson

“The Greenfield Prize is one of the most important arts award in the country,” continued Rodgers, “and it happens here is Sarasota. Our list of winners includes some of the most exciting artists working today. The Hermitage Artist Retreat could not be more proud or excited about this endeavor. We look forward to an amazing weekend and we hope the community will take advantage of this incredible opportunity to meet and hear these extraordinary people.”

Linda Golding
Linda Golding

The Greenfield Prize was established in 2009 by longtime Sarasota residents Bob and Louise Greenfield through the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation. The prize is a means by which a groundbreaking, enduring work of art will be created each year at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. The Prize consists of a $30,000 commission of an original work of art, a six-week residency at the Hermitage, and a partnership with a professional arts organization to develop the work and assistance in moving the work forward into the American arts world. A distinguished seven-person panel consisting of some of the most highly respected authorities in American art select each Greenfield Prize recipient. Three voting members on each jury are joined by a producing partner representative, Joni Greenfield of the Greenfield Foundation, Hermitage Greenfield Prize Director Patricia Caswell and Hermitage Executive Director Bruce Rodgers who facilitates. Since its inception, past prizewinners include playwrights Craig Lucas and John Guare, composer Eve Beglarian and visual artist Sanford Biggers.

Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer

For more information on the Greenfield Prize, visit the website at www.greenfieldprize.org. For more information on the Hermitage Artist Retreat, visit the website at www.HermitageArtistRetreat.org or contact Executive Director Bruce E. Rodgers at 941-475-2098.

The following links might be helpful if you are looking for more information on our Greenfield Prize weekend artists: http://www.bam.org/view.aspx?pid=129
http://www.annepatterson.com
http://www.robertspanomusic.com
http://www.vijay-iyer.com

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, Englewood, FL