100 Creatives

Lisa Von Hoffner on the Responsibility of "Making the Best Damn Art" She Can

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 14. Lisa Von Hoffner.

Things are taking shape for Lisa Von Hoffner.

The painter packs her days with art-making, "always working, working, working to fulfill the most pressing deadline." It seems the constancy is no exaggeration. Since moving to Arizona in 2013 to get her master's of fine art at Arizona State University, she has shown work in some 15 Valley exhibitions, including two shows at ASU galleries. 

"I have been making art ever since I could pick up a pencil, and have spent the course of my life working hard to cultivate my abilities, understand my work and why I make it and what it means," the 29-year-old says.

For "Radical Devotions," her MFA thesis show that ran in April of this year at ASU's Harry Wood Gallery, Von Hoffner contrasted the organic curvature of women's bodies — whether tattooed, scrubbed clean, or showgirlish —and surrounded them with geometric puzzles in tones of Barbie pink, reflective blue-green foil, Lisa Frank rainbows, and Miami teal. Presented on circular panels, each work was backlit by a halo of light.

One work, titled Mesopotamia, looks as though Saved by the Bell's title sequence invaded a Renaissance work of religious realism. But the Phoenix artist looks at it a little differently.

Von Hoffner grew up with a strong mother and four sisters (and her father and brother, too) just outside Philadelphia, in a town called Ridley. That presence of women, Von Hoffner says, has incited her to create such female-centric works.

"From a technical standpoint, I manipulate light and paint to create multidimensional works that pair figuration with geometric abstraction," she says. "Installation and bending light are the most recent dimensions I have been pursuing in my practice. I hope to develop a distinct language of art and am eager to explore the physical condition of painting with the inclusion of ever-evolving media."

With her work ethic to credit, Von Hoffner is well on her way. Though there's still plenty of work to be done. 

"Art causes me a great deal of anxiety, but it is something I am devoted to nonetheless. The experience and hyper focus that I have dedicated to my practice has gotten me to this point in my career," she says, adding that, "Graduate school has been invaluable in helping my work come full circle, really elevating my work from the realm of confused neophyte to that of a deliberate, concise, and intellectual — but still learning — professional."

She's now taken with exploring how permanence and impermanence interact through her work, and what's natural versus what's artificial, lowbrow or highbrow. Next on her to-do list is the completion of a piece that will be shown this November in a Torrance Art Museum show curated by Max Presneill.

That process of working and creating in the studio is what keeps Von Hoffner going. Whether she fails or succeeds, she's developing new ideas. "Ideas are fluid and I hope to reflect that in my work, learning something new from every piece I make," she says. "It is important to be willing to abandon your original idea for a piece at times. Art that is forced tends to reflect rigidity and can come off as inauthentic."

I came to Phoenix with an impala, a Louie dog, and a polka-dot dress with a pocket full of glitter.

I make art because making things is in my bones. The arts hold a magical place in our existence. They humanize us, break barriers, pique our curiosities, and engage others and the world. I have always had a knack for making things, and for this I feel extremely fortunate. This also comes with a maddening responsibility to make the best damn art I can. I want to titillate, sublimate, and electrify others with my work.

I'm most productive when I am battling a whirlwind of projects and deadlines. Late nights that turn into early mornings are the high tide of my craft.

My inspiration wall is full of images of old nudes, figure studies, martyred saints, grandiose architecture, glitter, and works by artists who seriously impress me such as Sargent, Schiele, and anyone I can dig up from the Louvre.

I've learned most from being in the studio and being a part of a creative community.

Good work should always be honest, provocative, and reflect originality whilst upholding a mindfulness to its history. Although my work originates from my own lens, I deeply admire the sometimes offbeat and other times like-minded reactions and interpretations of the audience, as varied as they may come. Art is a big ole' dish of soul food that should transcend aesthetics and make us feel something. Whether that be good, full, uncomfortable, inspired, or repulsed, art that appeals to a multitude of senses is insatiable.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more of a push towards fine art to really position Phoenix as a viable and influential bastion for the arts rather than a temporary support for artists to build up their practice and move elsewhere.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
23. Slawomir Wozniak
22. Elly Finzer
21. Josh Brizuela
20. Amy K. Nichols
19. Angela Johnson
18. Grant Vetter
17. Michelle and Melanie Craven
16. Erick Biez
15. Leah Marche
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski