If art is an extension of one’s character, Seattle-based artist hydEON (Ian Ferguson) is a prime example of this statement come to life.
In all aspects of his art, from its style and influences to the materials it’s created with, Ferguson’s pieces are rich, filled with geometric patterns and strange little characters, all of which match his slightly eccentric personality. And perhaps it is because Ferguson draws inspiration from images as old as the Renaissance, Druid civilizations, and the 1200s, but as opposed to being thoughtless, crude illustrations, his works are detailed renderings reminiscent of old woodblock prints. There are hints of symbolism in them, which remind one vaguely of alchemic days long gone.
But Ferguson even draws inspiration from the more recent past. For when he isn’t creating art — or making music, for that matter — he works at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance thrift store, which is a non-profit thrift store benefiting an AIDS prevention and support organization. It’s an occupation that might not sound glorious to some, but it serves to give Ferguson a steady stream of ideas.
“I almost feel like I can make use of just about everything from there,” explains Ferguson. “I’ve been really getting into old photos from the turn of the century — the ’20s and the ’30s — and if I can, even older than that. I’ve found some really old thrift store photos [and] artwork… and I like to go over them. I’ve been really big into transforming [and] remixing art, basically.”
Surprisingly, Ferguson used to work on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. As a former graphic designer who created everything from business cards to flyers, Ferguson gave up the design lifestyle to pursue art that seems to run in his family. With a mother who is an artist and art teacher, an uncle who is a photographer, and a grandfather who was a multi-disciplinary artist, Ferguson decided he’d follow suit and concentrate more on fine art than digital art.
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Nonetheless, like most young artists trying to establish a foothold in this day and age, Ferguson does have a website. Up until recently, though, it was far removed from the typical portfolio webpage. Instead, it was a puzzle of sorts, which featured four images on the main page that had to be clicked in the correct sequence in order for the user to access the actual website. Otherwise, the user would be faced with a dead end.
“You [had to] choose the right coat card in the right sequence to get into the gates. Otherwise… even if you don’t get into the site, I guess that could be kind of the site itself,” Ferguson laughs.
Unfortunately, the unusually playful website had to be changed for more practical purposes; the unaccessibility of it was hindering some viewers from seeing his work. The fact remains, however, that most artists would have never created a website like that in the first place, and this is the type of quirkiness that sometimes plays out in Ferguson’s works.
For instance, some artists have characters they draw over and over again, and so does Ferguson. But whereas those artists might have cute bunnies or beautiful women, Ferguson has the Hermtroglodites — the Herms, for short — pudgy little dwarf-like characters with a whole modern-day fictional fantasy biography.
“They’re Hermaphrodite cave-dwellers — male-female characters that have multiple chins and very distinct characteristics, like droopy eyes,” explains Ferguson. Above all else, the Herms love three things: wine, cigarettes, and major corporations. At least, if those major corporations are Nike, Reebok, or their ultimate love, McDonald’s.
“Ronald is like god to them. They love Ronald. And they love wearing Nike and Reebok at the same time. They have their own company that’s a cross-platform; it’s a triad of Nike, Reebok, and McDonald’s, and they all come together to form this conglomerate,” Ferguson details.
Strange as it might all sound, the Herms actually represent a great deal more than just a couple fiends who really love Nike, Reebook, and McDonald’s. They are iconic figures in Ferguson’s work.
“I want [them] to be more as an example as a folk art, Americana — because they represent a lot of what I see socially in everyday life,” says Ferguson about the Herms, “such as a lot of the negative and positive aspects of America, so there’s a political statement involved, too.”
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More than three years ago, Ferguson moved to the Pacific Northwest from San Diego. Whereas San Diego made little impact on his art, the Pacific Northwest provided him with the complete opposite. “When I came up here, seeing the Cascades, the Olympics, and Mount Rainier for the first time was all just so inspiring… it’s just so beautiful it transcends all,” Ferguson explains. “It has this weird spiritual presence to me that I always feel, so it comes out in the artwork, for sure.”
It makes sense, then, that mountains are constantly emerging in the backdrops of Ferguson’s works, as are cityscapes. Some are cityscapes inspired by the skylines of Chicago, New York, or other areas on the East Coast, and others are more classical, with Eastern European or Old World influences.
“Row homes have always been really inspiring to me. They’re almost like the Douglas Fir Trees of [the Pacific Northwest]; I see them, and I feel this like sort of transcendental complexity with them. They almost have a personality,” says Ferguson. “Maybe it’s some sort of past life thing; I really don’t know, but I’m really drawn to them. They’re really inspiring.”
As a whole, Ferguson seems like a person who has his eyes open to the beauty of the world. When he isn’t making art, he’s often still creating, and one of his main outlets is music. Judging from his art – – which is full of angles, sharpness, and layers — one might guess that Ferguson likes very angular, technical music. And while Ferguson says his favorite music is that his friends create, the synthesis seems to hold true here as well.
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“Music absolutely affects everything… It’s always there; it has to be there,” says Ferguson. “If I get a little burnt out on the visual art and hand-rendering thing, I can kind of chill out and go into music, and it’s a nice transition, [but] it’s still exercising the mind in the same way — just on a totally different platform.”
In 2010, Ferguson will be busy. He is now running an online record label called Breathing And Receiving Oxygen, where he will be digitally releasing albums from his friends. Artistically, he will be working hard to promote his own art, via numerous means — overt and hidden. He has plans to set up shows in Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco in the upcoming year, as well as create more installations and doing more street art type works.
“They won’t be that visible,” explains Ferguson about his street art pieces. “It’ll be more an Easter egg hunt when you find them, but they’ll be up there some places. Lurking in the shadows.”