August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Phil Hawkins’ unique worldview is on display in the flowing lines and organic contours of his art. It’s a philosophy that even comes through in the simple choice of materials he uses to bring his ideas to life.

The 30-year-old artist’s subtly colored drawings and paintings are filled with intersecting lines and two- and three-dimensional shapes that leap off the page. His sculptures and installations, crafted from PVC, wood, and cardboard, are patterns of geometric prisms meticulously built from pieces Hawkins cuts. He either hand-paints or covers the pieces with reflective and holographic foils that seem to burst off of each form.

The majority of Hawkins’ sculptures and installations currently use rough materials, like corrugated cardboard, as a primary medium. While most people would throw similar pieces of cardboard away without a second thought, Hawkins chooses to give these materials new life. Even within his downtown basement studio, he exhibits his symbiotic relationship with the resources around him, with the creation of several functional dividing screens he handmade from old doors, carpet remnants, poles, and Velcro.

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“The way I feel about my surroundings and life in general and the environment—how everything is connected in the world—I feel like that shows through some of my work,” Hawkins says.

Consider his 18-x-7-foot installation wall of shimmering diamonds pieced together from small triangles he cut from cardboard and painted. This is a reflection of personal space and environment. And his paintings—incorporating intersecting lines, contours, and layered two- and three-dimensional shapes—are influenced by the world he sees. “I feel like it all has a circulation. It all functions together. It all has a relationship that means something a little deeper than what it looks. Looking between the lines and trying to see what’s really going on, past all the complicated structures and lines of symmetry: It might be geometric and might be a style, but there’s a little bit more of a life form to it,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins, an Omaha native, earned an associate’s degree in graphic arts from Metropolitan Community College and a bachelor’s degree in arts management from Bellevue University. He went on to complete an internship under artist and co-founder of Hot Shops Art Center, Leslie Bruning. His method, however, is self-discovered and self-taught.

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His unique style of art was cultivated from his exploration of the contemporary art world and his personal need to satiate his own curiosity. “When it comes to where ideas start for me, a geometric approach is very natural. I just see all of that. It comes out of me as something I’m interested in seeing more of on a scale that I have not seen elsewhere.”

Over the past three years, Hawkins has honed in on his particular brand of art, and since then, he says, his life has changed greatly. “I’ve found my own style, which I think makes sense to me and is very pure.”

Those that know Hawkins closely agree that his energy exudes from his work, including his mentor of three years, Bruning. “I’d say Phil takes a humble approach to his art, and it works well with his personality,” Bruning says. “When a person works within their personality, they’re so much more progressive in what they do. If you are true to your nature, you can be an artist forever.”

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Hawkins says he doesn’t see himself doing anything else and plans on being in Omaha for a long time. “I’m learning how art can apply to the people in the community, and I couldn’t be happier with how that’s turned out.” He mentions his excitement over an upcoming project with the Creighton Lied Center with their center for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“I want my art to have a message people can take away or inspire them, or it can even be a conversation and alter or change their mood. A successful piece of art can have a conversation when the artist isn’t there. I think when someone talks about your work, that’s success in itself.”

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