A Creative Anchor
Originally from the Bay Area, California, Hope Curran first visited Paris when she was 12 years old for a family vacation and fell in love with everything French. Just eight months after graduating with her bachelor in Art and Global Studies in 2016, she moved to Paris to start an art internship with Agape Art. She then studied at La Sorbonne for a Masters in Fine Arts. Hope is a self-proclaimed artist, poet and dreamer. Her name has inspired a lifelong multidisciplinary research approach of light, home, community, beauty, relationships and she believes hospitality is the highest form of art. “To hope is to not yet have, yet hold close”. These are her promises written in ink and portraits of light.
Did you always want to be an artist?
When I was 5 years old, I dressed as an artist for Halloween–I still have the photo–I wore a beret, had paint all over my shirt and I showed up to school with paintbrushes. I made a promise to myself, when I was about 9, to never be bored in my life. I am the youngest of my family and we didn’t have much, my parents were missionaries, so I was creating all the time. For me being an artist meant creating a world that I wished could be. I was always encouraged to buy my art supplies with my own money, so I had an entrepreneurial vision of art very early. I would sit on the kitchen floor and draw my mother’s portrait, then sell it to her for a quarter and I would go buy crayons. When I was a little bit older, I would make jewellery, and then I started to shoot portraits in high school which helped me raise funds to buy another camera.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I had this idea last year that I scribbled in a journal: the intimate meets the infinite in the poetic. The Intimate is in very small things, whereas the infinite goes from the stars to the bigger life questions and the combination of both becomes poetry for me. My main inspiration from the beginning is that hunger for knowing; what is the purpose of life, light, and beauty, and seeking that out. In that, I find people’s stories are the things that really get me excited and curious, how I can relate their story to my story and tell that through poetry and photography. I engage in bigger conversations about the meaning of life and talk about these things through a simple avenue and a neutral space of art. I really see art as a platform from which a lot of things come to and leave from. That’s why space, and creating that space, is really important in my work.
Somehow with people, you have what the French call “des affinités”, it’s this connection between people, but it doesn’t translate well in English. It’s linked to creation as well, and something we can’t touch, just like faith. Faith is very important to me. In France, in a secular environment, I had to be very sensitive and that’s why art was this beautiful freedom for me. My parents named me Hope, and chose a Bible verse from Hebrew 6:19 that says, “Hope is an anchor for the soul, strong and secure.” This theme of ‘hope’ shows up a lot in my work as well, and the difference between hoping for something tangible and an eternal hope that will guide you through life. Coming full circle with my art form as well: there’s a hope that is eternal, but it’s made of those more tangible little things in our daily life.
Your main body of work is HOME, how would you define it?
This theme came around when I was in my senior year in college. I was thinking about my local context of home, my personal journey of being away from my home and my parents, but also the people around me. I interviewed 500 people by giving them a post-it, asked them what “Home” meant to them and later collected their answers. A part of my work on HOME is a collection of things from multiple people to get an almost sociological vision. Their answers were fascinating, HOME is not a place, it’s about community and belonging, comfort and culture; and most importantly it transcends borders, just like my art aspires to.
How did you manage to keep your creative spark alive during a lockdown?
It’s fun to think about because it’s only seven or eight weeks of my life but they felt like three years. I was living at the Fondation des Etats-Unis near the Parc Montsouris in the 14th arrondissement. I lived down a hall of 16 artists and musicians. The foundation has a special residency and they also have artist studios. I was lucky enough to be locked down with creative people around me.
I had to finish my thesis, which meant that I had to work through everything I collected for the past three years in France; bringing her intentions to the surface and finding new ways to approach her art process. It was pretty stressful to sit alone and have to make sense of it all. But a lot of my creativity came from a routine, my goal was to write a poem a day. Food and community were so much a part of my creativity, but I couldn’t show hospitality in the same ways. So I figured out ways to show hospitality differently, even to myself. I would make a delicious meal, bake bread and it didn’t have to be for everyone this time. I feel like I got in touch with myself, not burning out on my art and learned to be more in tune with what I needed and rest. All those simple things helped me a lot, like a walk without my phone could be more productive for me than five hours of work.