Artist in Residence Pato Hebert Gives Talk

The Los Angeles artist surveyed his work for a packed crowd in Sharpless Auditorium.

In a talk titled “I Love to Feel Where the Words Come From,” artist Pato Hebert offered a survey of his work to a packed crowd in Sharpless auditorium September 18.

Hebert began his slideshow presentation with a piece done in 2006 at the University of Maine, titled Hopes and Fears. In this piece, Hebert invited faculty, staff, and students to write their hopes and fears on pieces of construction ribbon which he then tied onto branches of trees around the school pond. Hebert described this piece as “calm and humble but deeply poignant.” Though it was intended to last one month, the piece remained there for five months, holding fast through all sorts of weather.

The next piece Hebert showed, titled Drop Off, was part of an annual Art on the Waterfront event held by the port of Los Angeles. Hebert created a sound installation which he described as “a crazy, percussive banging piece.” He played a recording of  Drop Off for the audience, explaining that the artwork alludes to human trafficking, immigration, and security issues, adding as a side note, “and of course the port is swarming with security.”

Mixed Signals was a public sculpture Hebert created in the window of a gallery housed in a former hat store. At the time, the gallery stood at the epicenter of a gentrifying neighborhood in Los Angeles. “It was a public, permeable place where exterior meets interior,” said Hebert, who put together 90 salvaged taillights and blinkers, for the conceptual piece, which was meant to comment on what was happening in the neighborhood.

Hebert also showed a community art project he did with students at Palencia, a school in inner-city Los Angeles. He challenged them to think about how they experienced their school, asking questions like “What does Palencia smell like?” and “How does Palencia make me feel?” The students’ answers were then printed on t-shirts in their original handwriting.

In his presentation, Hebert also talked extensively about his work with the AIDS Project Los Angeles’s education program, which deals with prevention. The organization publishes a journal called Corpus that uses poetry, memoir, photos, and stories to look at the sociocultural context in which HIV happens.

At the end of his talk, Hebert addressed the issue of student work. He advised aspiring artists not to wait until they were “more of an adult” or when “you have x, y, and z under your feet.”

“Shape things to be the way you want them to be,” said Hebert. “It happens now.”

After his presentation, Hebert opened the floor to questions, to which the audience responded enthusiastically. Brought to campus as an artist in residence by the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center, this talk marked the first event of many in what will be a semester-long residency for Hebert.

--Stephanie Wu '09