ABOUT THE ARTIST
Peter has been creating in 3 dimensions since an early age, when he made things from treasures gleaned as a child from trash piles on the sides of neighborhood streets. He now makes sculptures from tire fragments gleaned from the sides of highways. Apparently, not much has changed. Sculpting primarily with ripped fragments of found tire rubber, he also works with wood, steel and mixed media, building on his early background in ceramic sculpture. His work reflects his hard-wired fascination with natural textures and forms, and years of photographing and collecting a personal library of textural references. Although largely self-taught, he studied at the University of Michigan School of Art, and has shown work nationally and internationally for over 25 years.
Naturally drawn to observing both cultural patterns in human behavior and the rhythmic patterns of nature, his work combines both social commentary and a respect for the language of natural forms. His innate, largely anthropological observations and philosophical questioning of human cultures are enhanced by his training in social sciences at Oberlin College. Since his teen years, his concern about the possible future extinction of human beings has been the lens through which he views cultural trends and trajectories. In particular, he is fascinated with the socio-political-economic appeals and simultaneous perils of the American Dream ideology - which he summarizes as the pursuit of fulfillment through acquiring “more, bigger, better, quicker, faster, easier, newer, shinier, for me now.” Questions about these cultural values and their impacts and consequences interwoven into the textures and forms of his work.
He has exhibited four times at the National Art Museum of China in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Beijing International Art Biennales, as well as in France, Canada, and Greece, in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, in over a dozen American states and in dozens of California venues. His work has been selected for exhibitions by curators from the Whitney Museum, National Academy Museum in NY, the National Textile Museum in Washington, DC, Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey, The Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle, The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, among others. His work is presently represented by galleries in New York City, Carmel, California and in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
With this work I explore that uneasy space of contradictory feelings about modern existence, knowing that my pleasures and conveniences of today come at a cost to other life forms, and to long-term human survival as well. Nearly every day I am struck with additional ways in which humans are swept up in mindless consumption, waste and depletion of our survival resources, with countless micro-choices adding up to large scale macro impacts. Since 2000, I have gathered fragments of exploded tires from highways for this body of work in which I challenge this lifestyle, and to share the disturbance I feel when I consider the human trajectory.
I enjoy this material for its flexible qualities, ripped textures and especially for its metaphorical richness. The texture alone is completely alluring, and the material provides a vocabulary that allows me a range of formal and conceptual expression. When gathering the rubber along the highways with traffic speeding past me, the air and ground vibrating as I encounter endless detritus and road-kill, I feel in my whole body the violent tension between consumer culture and the natural world. The organic flexibility, the wildly ripped textures and unusual qualities of this material allow me to raise questions about alternatives not only to fossil fuels, but about ideological alternatives to the materialist American Dream mythology. Playing with new possibilities and creating new forms out of torn fragments gives me a momentary sense of hope that a new ideology can be created from our current predicament, providing a more balanced means for human survival.
From the same sources of inspiration for my tire-rubber work, I make these canvas prints from the actual landscape of the streets. By carefully timing my work on the street with safe pauses in traffic flow, I place sheets of canvas over specific pavement locations where I have observed interesting traffic patterns and street textures. The more familiar I have become watching both traffic flow and its interaction with pavement textures, the better I am able to gauge the visual potential in various sites, although unpredictability plays an excitingly significant role. Sometimes the violence of the traffic rips the canvas to shreds; other times fascinating patterns emerge.
By taking imprints of our fossil-fuel culture that are left on a specific spot on the surface of our planet during a short time period, then placing them in a frame on a wall, I see the impact of our daily lives a bit differently. Unlike graffiti artists or those like Cristo who add pigments or materials to a landscape, this work captures marks not usually seen or noted that would have otherwise been added to the landscape, and removes them to another context. I am able to take advantage of both the traffic imprints and digital technology to produce limited edition, hygienically clean Giclée prints for framed final images. I also adjust from the larger scale of the streets to a more human-scaled sizing of the finished prints that better relates to indoor landscapes.
This body of work is about my faith and hope in the animate space within all living things, embodying that invisible and enigmatic life force - and the sacred importance of that particular form for holding that living essence, protecting it and carrying it forward into the next generation or species. I am fascinated by the constant evolution of forms across geologic time, always in the process of change - some running their course and going extinct and others newly created to keep this forward passage of life in continual motion.
Vertical Forms: Using the language of simple geometric shapes, these tall pieces are an attempt to reach a level of human existence apart from the typical distinctions of gender, culture, economic system, politics, gesture and emotion. The forms were conceived almost as fragments or slices that remain after the removal and paring away of outer layers. What is common to all of humanity once outer layers are removed and an inner core revealed?
Horizontal Forms: The botanical term "pericarp" is a beautiful metaphor for the role played in evolution by humans (and by all life forms), and applies to all the works of this series, but particularly to works including Between, Link, Pericarp, Trace and Continuation: A pericarp is a disposable form (or "seed vessel") that protects the seed of the next generation - being neither the parent nor the next life form itself, but guarding the seed in its journey to germination, and being eventually discarded like all used-up life forms.
I view each life form (particularly that of humanity) in this way. In the course of geologic time, I believe we are individually and collectively disposable forms, yet imbued with the sacredness of life. We are all part of a lineage of continuity, a linkage to other life forms and to all life across all time - past into the future. It is in this context that I reflect on the fate and future extinction of the human form, face our role as accelerant to evolutionary processes, and attempt to make peace with what troubles me about the human impact on the planet. It is strangely calming to contemplate how life will continue to dwell within various evolving forms long into the future, with or without the survival of humans.
Reviews & Comments
“Hiers takes us into a media that is rich with both texture and metaphor. The destructive waste of daily life is deconstructed and transformed into sculptures with haunting questions and unusual beauty. Hiers shares insights, questions and hints at a future that weaves both fragmentation with order, and challenge with hope.”
- Catherine Lee, Founder of Crossing Art Gallery, New York, NY.
“What caught my attention in the work of Peter Hiers is his use of fragments of tire treads he gathers from highways. From these he conjures works with a certain lyrical quality. The drastic environmental impact of our runaway consumer culture has been the dominant concern. Hiers’ work does not immediately drive us away or trade in making us feel guilty. Rather, it draws us in and quietly asks us to think. Where is this road taking us?”
- Richard Whittaker, founding editor of “art & conversation” magazine, and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine, Oakland, CA
“Feeling trapped in our fuel-dependent society, he expresses his anxiety using the organic, wild textures of tire rubber as a vocabulary for social commentary”. In “Declaration of Dependence”, Hiers weaves roughly torn strips of old tires into an elegant square knot with lovely loose ends. I can relate, and I want to see more.”
- Joseph C. Roberts, Curator, Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, WA
“Salvaging such defiant beauty from scraps of rubber tires provides a compelling metaphor of survival in the modern world.”
- Robert Reese, Curator, Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Carmel, CA
“Much more than I imagined – what great play on the line between Lost & Found, Beauty & Ugly, Love & Hate. BRAVO!!”
- Artist Jeff Bareilles, former Artist in Residence, Whitney Museum of American Art
“These are lovely. There is a beauty and danger in these works.”
- Lori McBride, Las Laguna Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA
“The fabricated rubber contains inherent associations with mass distribution systems tied with consumerism, as well as long-term ecological concerns. Hiers’ sculpture
Declaration of Dependence reflects the graceful malleability of the material but denotes the dependency society has developed around this compound rubber.”
- Felipa Irene Lugo, Ephemeral Articles, Sacramento, CA