Despite having turned 80 last summer and boasting a successful 50-year career, Sheila Hicks (born Nebraska, 1934) still considers herself an “outsider” artist. In fact, as she talks about this status, it is clear that it is something she wears like a badge of honour and is keen to hold on to for the freedom it gives her.
Hicks studied in Yale under Josef Albers and then won a Fulbright Scholarship (1957-8) to travel in South America. During her travels, both here and later in life, Hicks observed people working with fibres – wool, yarn, thread, and so on – as both a pastime and a way of life. She observed the vibrancy of different cultures and ways of life, of different terrains and cityscapes. She observed people making things. All of these influences can be found in her work today.
For her first solo exhibition in a UK public art institution, Hicks has filled Dan Graham’s Waterloo Sunset Pavilion in the Hayward Gallery Project Space with huge pigmented bales – in an attempt, she says, to create something as exciting as London zoo. Accompanying this is a selection of her more museum-friendly works, including some of her intimate minimes (small studies) and fibre-based drawings.
In a conversation very much led by Hicks, and accompanied by the Hayward’s chief curator Stephanie Rosenthal, she explains more about where her inspiration came from, the importance of photography to her when she was travelling alone, and the difference between carrots and radishes.
Sheila Hicks: Foray into Chromatic Zones
Hayward Gallery Project Space, London
23 February – 19 April 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY