In the basement of Stephanie Hongo’s home in Southington, there is an open bin full of garbage. When Hongo sees it, she doesn’t see a mess. You see an opportunity. Every day she takes out some of that trash and turns it into sculptures of magnificent animals.
“Idris”, Hongo’s great blue heron, is made of shutters, cable ties, extensions, buttons and bottle caps. “Cash,” her long-horned bull, has horn tips made from Barbie legs. His elephant, “Jericho”, has ears made of plastic Adirondack chairs and a head made of take-out containers. The ears of her giraffe, “Stella”, are cropped basketballs.
“I want, when you see it for the first time, that you read it as an animal. Then you look closer because you see something ‘weird’ in it, which seems a little weird, “Hongo said.
On Saturday, Hongo, whose professional nickname is Sugarfox, will present some of his animal sculptures at a one-night show in Hartford. She is one of the dozen artists who will participate in ManiFESTation ART 2022: RiseUP for Change, at the theatrical space Thomas Hooker Live.
The charity art party – which will include performances, exhibits, food and drink – is organized in recognition of the muralists who created works of art in the state.
Hongo is one of those artists. The mural of him, in the main corridor of the Page Park swimming pool in Bristol, was unveiled last year. The background of the artwork is a painted underwater scene. The sea creatures that swim in the water – octopuses, jellyfish, dolphins, starfish – are 3D sculptures of found objects, like the independent animals it creates.
Hongo, 36, grew up in Shelton. She and her twin sister started taking art lessons at the age of 10. Hongo’s sister gravitated towards typography and digital illustration. Hongo preferred painting. Later she moved on to sculpture. The exchange was out of necessity, as was her favorite medium, garbage.
“I did a great job at Trader Joe’s as a sign artist. Then the work went downhill and I needed to leave, “he said.” I looked for other works. I had a hard time finding anything that wasn’t digital art. I didn’t have those skills.
“I wanted to try to be a freelance artist but I didn’t have a following. I thought I was painting, but these days people go to Target and buy a print for $ 10, “he said.” I thought the place to be was the sculpture, but the supplies for the sculpture are expensive. “
He saw pictures of the work of the Spanish sculptor Bordalo II, who creates animals from pieces of trash. She was inspired. “It was so beautiful. I wanted to do a version, a smaller version, “she said.
One of his first attempts was a deer he called Yondu, from “Guardians of the Galaxy”. He made Yondu with things lying around the house: a bag, sunglasses, Tupperware, an ironing board, a grill lighter, a belt, a toothbrush and other random items. He painted it blue and decided to keep it. Yondu hangs in the dining room of his house.
Yondu set the tone for his subsequent work. Hongo creates creatures out of garbage and then paints them. “You can distinguish everything in the sculpture when it is not painted. Once you paint it, it becomes a cohesive and solid sculpture. It’s harder to discern what things are, ”he said. “But up close, you can still distinguish it. I like that element. “
Hongo never dives into bins for work materials. Word has spread to the Bristol-Southington area and sometimes makes a shout out on social media when he needs a particular item. People give her things for free. “People are glad they’re not just throwing it away, something useful will come out of it,” she said. She also benefits greatly from the things discarded by her boyfriend’s job as an HVAC technician.
Hongo is in an enviable position for an artist. Making art is his full time job. He does not have a side job or a “day job”. She knows she is one of the lucky ones.
“I sit in gratitude every day,” she said. “I know how crazy rare it is.”
Hartford-based RiseUP Group and Norwalk-based MAD (Manifest Art Dreams) present 2022 ART ManiFESTation: RiseUP for Change. Matt Conway is the founder and executive director of RiseUP, whose CT Murals division has created more than 100 murals statewide.
“We’re trying to manifest the future of the creative economy by showcasing some of Connecticut’s most progressive and revolutionary artists,” said Conway. “We want to elevate the arts. We hope that politicians, economic development directors and city officials will come so they can see what a culturally inclusive and creative community can bring to their communities. “
Other artists participating in the ART event, who have all collaborated on the murals through CT Murals, are Emida Roller, Lindsay Vigue, Joy Monroe, Alissa Siegal, Jaii Marc Renee, Chris Gann, Jillian Goeller, Michael Rice, Micaela Levesque, Corey Pane, Deka Henry, Lauren Clayton, Tiyah Thomas, Ben Keller, Arcy (Ryan Christenson), Julie Bergeron, Alex Ranniello, Joshua Morgan, Sophie Groenstein and Andre Rochester.
Five things you need to know
We are providing the latest coronavirus coverage in Connecticut every weekday morning.
CT Murals’ most recent murals are one by Roller at the YMCA at 9 Technology Park Drive in Putnam and one by Pane at the Department of Children and Families at 250 Hamilton Street in Hartford. A Levesque mural will be unveiled on July 14 at Primo Press at 106 Riverside Avenue in Bristol.
Conway said he hopes the proceeds from the June 25 party will fund more murals.
The presenter of the evening is Joey Batts. DJ Jonesy will provide music. Brandy Welch will perform a projection mapping performance. Annika Rhea will perform a 20-minute live painting performance. The other Voice Theater will perform.
“The actors from Other Voice will be infused into the event from start to finish, in the crowd, acting out the whole time,” Conway said.
Virtual reality stations will be available. Monroe will be in charge of body painting. In addition to entertainment and exhibits, admission includes food from Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ and an open bar from Thomas Hooker Brewery.
ARTE MANAGEMENT 2022: RiseUP for Change is Saturday from 6pm to 11pm at Hooker Live @ The Colt Factory, 1 Sequassen Street in Hartford. Admission is $ 50 in presale, $ 75 at the door. theriseupgroup.org/am2022. instagram.com/mad_we_are/. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com/e/art-manifestation-riseup-for-change-tickets-278392929747.
Susan Dunne can be reached at [email protected].