Truckee artist promotes awareness, inclusivity
Truckee artist promotes awareness, inclusivity
Tahoe artist Hope Huber is striving to redefine public awareness through contemporary art at the local grocery store, bear boxes and hiking trails.
Since the state imposed regulations related to COVID-19 in March, Tahoe locals and visitors alike have been bombarded with signage featuring icons of masked faces and washing hands.
Beyond checkouts and store fronts, Tahoe locals wielded signs themselves during demonstrations as tourist traffic came through the area this summer, reminding visitors to “pack it in, pack it out.”
According to Tahoe Fund’s CEO Amy Berry, the bulk of messaging takes place during financial transactions. Because of the staging necessary for signage, Berry said day trippers — often of a different socioeconomic background than overnight visitors — are hard to reach.
Huber, an Auburn native who settled in Truckee after graduating from St. Mary’s College of California, said she hopes to engage visitors and locals alike with paintings inclusive in nature, theme and curation.
Hope Huber with her cat, Jorge Pablo
“Art is the message,” said Huber. “It’s digestible. It’s easy to absorb. It’s not aggressive, it’s not demeaning or pointed at any particular group — it’s intentional.”
Huber said her pieces explore and reflect the inspiration she draws from the Sierra in order to protect the landscape and its people long after shelter-in-place orders are over.
“We need to take on loftier ideas of how we can collaborate to keep our Earth clean,” said the earth and environmental studies major. “How can we empower each other in terms of diversity?”
According to Huber, fortifying the message, be it ‘Leave No Trace’ or ‘Black Lives Matter,’ means making it meaningful to all.
Huber, whose body of work largely promotes environmental stewardship, described her pieces as “more lucid than abstract.”
“If anything, my approach is one that I want to be accessible,” Huber explained. “I want to be able to share my work and collaborate with others.”
Huber’s work can be found in- and outdoors in North Lake Tahoe.
One reliable place anyone can find her work is on at the local grocery store.
Field Marketing Specialist Johanna Abasto said the Truckee Raley’s O-N-E Market hosted a local artist spotlight contest in place of a grand opening. Huber received the most nominations.
Abasto said television monitors will eventually provide nutritional information to educate shoppers, but the franchise wanted to pay homage to its new community.
“We thought it would be awesome to show something with the Truckee community on those monitors,” Abasto said.
Abasto said the competition highlighted the work of local artists and raised $1,500 for the Tahoe Food Hub, an organization that supports sustainable agriculture by connecting the basin community with local farmers.
Abasto said the art is currently available for viewing and will be showcased for the next three months.
Huber’s other works can be found outdoors in more “uncontrolled” environments.
Huber was selected to be a featured artist for the Sierra State Parks Foundation’s Bear Box Art Fundraiser. For a $500 donation, the foundation is commissioning local artist to paint one side of a bear box. Three hundred dollars of the total donation goes to the foundation.
THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL
Huber said she appreciates the recognition as she reevaluates and practices her craft along with the year’s series of crises.
“It was stressful and disconcerting when I didn’t have a job,” Huber explained, regarding her COVID-19-related unemployment, “but it felt like there was actually a creative release and expansion at the time. Ever since, it’s been a whirlwind for me.”
Huber said the initial freedom of joblessness gave her greater capacity to focus on her art.
“I’ve been trying to think about this time to empower not only my own voice, but other people,” Huber said. “This has been a period of political unrest and the pandemic has been making the people of our country angry in a lot of ways. It’s the perfect time to send out artwork.”
Huber said she continues to be moved by the emerging artists and activists in 2020.
“The time to say something is now,” Huber said.
Huber said she is eager to use her voice to respond to the structural inequality she witnessed while visiting low-income areas of Sacramento for high school basketball games.
“You can’t ignore the wealth disparity,” Huber said.
CONTEMPORARY ART IN TAHOE
That’s why the artist is taking action now in the form of location-specific art.
Hence Huber’s personal project, “Don’t trash it,” just one of the ideas she saw to fruition over quarantine. In it, Huber uses canvas and recycled materials to hand-paint signs she then stages around the North Lake Tahoe area.
“It’s to encourage guests in the area to clean up after themselves,” Huber said.
Laura Miller, Huber’s art practice professor at St. Mary’s College of California, identified her former student’s site-specific work as an “artistic intervention.”
Huber said her sense of personal responsibility to her community comes from her Lasallian education.
Miller said Huber’s focus on environmental activism using art materials in an actual environment as “both conceptually and artistically strong.”
Miller said Huber’s pieces may vary in structure and medium, but are inherently tethered to the meaning behind the message.
“She has a way of negotiating concepts and aesthetics,” Miller said of Huber’s creations in school. “She worked quickly and authentically. Everything she made was meant to express her personal artistic vision.”
Miller said contemporary art is meant to relay more than just beauty or the technical skill of the artist. Until the contemporary art movement took an albeit relatively ephemeral form in the 1960s, the western canon didn’t include artists of color and women, Miller said.
Miller said contemporary art does not necessarily belong on a pedestal, a wall or even a gallery.
“Every tourist destination has cutesy galleries that sell artwork that serves a function — art objects for the home,” Miller said. “It’s a narrow part of this larger field of contemporary art process.”
Miller said contemporary art prioritizes participation and engagement in aesthetics over being a monetary or status symbol.
“What’s exciting about Hope’s art practice is that she is putting it in the public eye in exciting and innovative ways,” Miller said. “A lot of artists do that, but what’s interesting is the way in which she’s found strategies to play on the structure of signage, participation and public intervention as a method for viewership.”
Miller said museum pretensions or admission fees may distance the intended audience from the conversation art has the potential to inspire.
“Brian Eno has a quote: ’Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences,’” Miller said.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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