October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I’m into surrealism, as you can probably tell,” says artist Conrad Hinz with a laugh. That may be the one thing all viewers will agree on about his collection, showing at Hot Shops Art Center in November. Dream-like paintings with titles like Spirit Pope, Going for a Ride on the Other Side, and The Minotaur all but guarantee each visitor will walk away with a unique interpretation of Hinz’s work.

A Journey Through Surrealism and the Experimental contains 27 original pieces, the work of two to five years for the Nebraska artist. “I use a lot of Nebraska imagery,” Hinz says, “but I pull a lot from dreams, too. They show irrationality. It makes things more fun.” His laugh is always at the ready. “I like to have fun with things.”

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Though Hinz is following in the footsteps of the surrealist greats by studying Freud (as did his inspiration, Salvador Dalí) and using the glazing technique of the old masters, he has his own ideas about what makes great art. “If someone doesn’t stop and look at art, I’m not sure if that’s a successful painting.”

For Hinz, the true tell of a great painting is the passing of the thrift store test. “Fifty years from now,” he says, “would someone pick up my art in a thrift store so they can have the frame, or would they want to hang my own painting on their wall?”

He’s picked up more than a few pieces himself that way. For example, two paintings hanging in his living room reflect identical scenes at Cadaqués, a small fishing town where Dalí lived in his adulthood. One painting is circa 1898 and from a thrift store, and the other was buried in Hinz’s mother’s closet and dated 1925.

 “I use a lot of Nebraska imagery. I pull a lot from dreams, too. They show irrationality. It makes things more fun.”

Speaking of Hinz’s mother, the influence from her half-Lakota heritage can be seen throughout his artwork and specifically in his Sundance piece. “The spiritualists, the healers. They were the celebrities in that age.” Hinz says he tries not to “hit people over the head” with his spirituality in his art. “There’s no agenda. I just want to make people aware that God is there. We’re more than our body.”

Spiritualism and Hinz’s sense of fun come together in Radio Spirit. “My grandpa was a ham radio operator,” he says, “and I just thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could talk to him through one of those things?” The Norman Rockwell-esque painting depicts a young man with headphones watching in awe as a ghostly figure emerges from his radio. “I think I like to tell a story,” Hinz says of the piece.

Radio Spirit is a painting inspired by Hinz's grandfather and the works of Norman Rockwell.

Radio Spirit is a painting inspired by Hinz’s grandfather and the works of Norman Rockwell.

As with his art, Hinz has a specific feel that he wants his Hot Shops show to generate. “I want people to have a bit of fun,” he says. “Laugh, joke—I want it to be like going to see your favorite musician. I hate things that are stuffy and too quiet.” He adds that he’s tossed around the thought of hiring a mariachi band or maybe riding in on a bike with tin cans.

Hinz says he’s always exploring, whether it’s deconstructing the traditional gallery show or testing a new perspective in art. “Why would I not explore? Sometimes you get nowhere, but at least you tried something. It doesn’t matter if fame is there or not.”

You can see more of Hinz’ works at Hot Shops Nov. 2-25, 2012. For more information, visit hotshopsartscenter.com.