America. And the big 2020 question is will Trump be trumped? In 2018, Cobh-based artist Jack Hickey visited Long Island.
With its "white picket fences, the American flag on the front lawn, I was in iconic suburbia" and an image that struck him became his painting Make Bunting Great Again. Knowing that, in itself, 'Make America Great Again' isn't a negative statement, Hickey says "it's the Trump connotation that colours it".
The deliberate title, both serious and humorous, rewrites Trump's mantra.
"By changing the word 'America' you automatically defuse the weight of that statement. Humour can be used in this way but runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It's a fine line, but the important thing is the engagement. Can it bring about discussion?"
This clapboard house is in Hicksville, Long Island and "my challenge was to paint something original but reference these iconic aspects". His answer is this brilliantly sharp and beautiful still life.
"It's more about American self-pride than anti-Trump." For Hickey, "art can make you see or realise something that you haven't already noticed. Art can be used as social commentary but it can also be used for propaganda and political gains. I prefer the viewer, even Donald Trump, to take from it what they will".
For young Hickey, art was a pastime, but in secondary school he "actively pursed it. It was the one subject I was good at and knew I could excel in".
Having worked long and hard, at 29 he won the 2017 Hennessy Portrait Prize and his technically superb commissioned portrait of Marie Cassidy now hangs in the National Gallery.
"Most people believe you are just 'born with it'. I disagree. The key is 10,000 hours. If you want to be an artist, patience is necessary. Nothing happens fast in the art world."
At Crawford Art College, "the most important thing I learned was how to be an artist, asking the question, 'what am I trying to express through my work?'."
He's a social individual and though an artist's life means "being alone for long periods of time, when not physically working you are still constantly thinking and observing".
Film and photography inspire him but "in the past decade we have been bombarded with imagery and video clips and these art forms are now diluted. Painting is relevant again".
Make painting great again? Jack Hickey's your man.
Instagram jackhickey_artist www.jackhickey.ie New York Affordable Art Fair March 26-29
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