Columbus Makes Art Presents: Henry Hess Creating Art Inspired by 20th Century Pop Culture
Henry Hess easily spends six hours a day creating outsider art with imagery inspired by 20th century pop culture. Henry is a teenager with autism living and working in Columbus. His artwork will be on display during the ReelAbilities Film Festival Columbus, Oct. 11-14. His mom, Amy, and mentor, Alicia Vanderelli, helped with his responses.
Erin: Tell me about your creative process.
Henry always draws his characters in pen to capture the details. He uses markers and pencils to add color, matching the scene and character, both on front and back of the paper. Henry starts and stops videos to make sure he captures even more detail. Once complete, Henry cuts characters from the paper without pause. He never erases or throws out a piece once he begins.
Erin: A lot of your work references classic movies. What’s the draw?
Henry’s love of the classics, especially musicals, began when he was two. He watched Singing in the Rain one rainy day and never took his eyes off the screen. Movies like The Wizard of Oz and its characters became part of his repertoire, and to some degree, the fabric of his personality. His characters travel everywhere with him – on vacation, to school and out to dinner.
Erin: Which artists have influenced your work?
For Henry’s art, it has to be the choreographers, cinematographers and costume designers of classic movies. Henry once made each main character from Singing in the Rain a paper wardrobe with interchangeable hats, raincoats and boots for different scenes. Personally, Alicia Vanderelli is Henry’s mentor. She takes him to visit galleries, meet local/professional artists, participate in events like Urban Scrawl and enroll in classes like blacksmithing at Idea Foundry.
Erin: You recently moved into a new studio – what is that like?
Henry has had a studio in Franklinton for three years, recently moving from 400 West Rich to #24 Chromedge. With 500 square feet, good light and a first floor location, Henry is more accessible to the community. Interacting with friends who stop in to borrow a paint brush is good for Henry’s personal development.
Erin: What projects are you working on now?
Henry is working on a series of paintings based off his paper pieces. When the weather is nice, Henry sits outside and paints from life. This summer he made portraits of his sister Sophie, Alicia and her cat, Smalls, after he caught a bird! Henry recently started working with Alicia as an assistant curator and preparator for VSA Ohio’s touring, visual art show. He’s learning new skills and gets to see art in other cities like Cleveland and Dayton.
Erin: This year’s ReelAbilities Film Festival Columbus features movies about a super hero and adaptive sports. Do you have any favorites?
Henry’s favorite super hero is Harry Potter, if that counts. Since classic films are preferred, his real hero is someone like Mr. Banks who stands up for his family against the Bank of England in Mary Poppins. As for sports, Henry loves to ski, kayak and adventure.
Henry’s art will be on display during the ReelAbilities Film Festival Columbus, October 11 at the Gateway Film Center, October 12 at the Ohio History Connection and October 14 at the Lincoln Theatre. All screenings are free and accessible. Contact VSA Ohio for information: 614-241-5325 or vsao.org.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.