Introducing ... Alan Arthur Hewitt
"I just like to do interesting things," said Alan Arthur Hewitt, a 39-year-old Southern Oregon University art student, sculpture and performance artist. "Generally, when I do them, other people find them interesting, too."
Hewitt is a calculated character, intricately crafted to draw notice. In a sense, he is his own opus. Riding through town on his bicycle, often attired in opulent yacht club style suits, everyone in Ashland has seen him. Equally parts pompous, charming, cavalier and enigmatic, and known in every Ashland hipster circle, Hewitt is a master of the artistic ropadope.
"Usually, when the public hears 'sculpture' they think hunk of granite or block of wood, right? But my stiff is nothing like that," said Hewitt, flipping the switch on a gyrating conglomeration of a hair dryer, bike tire, tripod, florescent lighting and wires. It's loud. "I like to turn it on at night, wrapping myself in Christmas lights and suspend myself from that beam," said Hewitt, pointing to a ceiling structure in one of the SOU art studios facing Siskiyou. "I guess you'd call that 'performance art'." Hewitt takes great pride in noting that once someone reported him as a UFO.
One can't talk with Hewitt long without bringing up hotdogs. In his studio, Hewitt points out a shrine he's crafted to Takeru Kobayashi, national hot dog eating champ. A few years ago, Hewitt stumbled upon his obsession while watching the Mike Judge television program, "King of the Hill," which dealt with the growing phenomenon. It piqued his fascination with the American culture of consumerism.
"I'm not cynical at all," said Hewitt. "It's just fun to take things that are past of low brow culture and present them in a fine art context. I was struck by how ironic it is that a skinny Japanese kid could eat twice as much as a big, fat American eater."
This obsession of Hewitt's compelled him to create one of the more provocative entries in the history of Southern Oregon performance art: the "God Bless America" contest. It was a hot dog eating contest on SOU grounds that promised the winner a date with a prostitute. "Really, she was an actress," said Hewitt, "but, in sense, we're all prostitutes."
Hewitt also was co-responsible for filling art department halls with trash and refuse to recreate the homeless experience in a higher education facility and context.
"Growing up as a middle child I was always doing stuff for attention. I certainly don't have any political or social agenda to convey through art," said Hewitt.
Hewitt, a Palo Alto native, spent years on the bumpy road of self-discovery working construction, plumbing, mechanics and go-cart racing before coming to Ashland three years ago as an aspiring communications major.
"Right after I started (here) I met some art professors and became an art major. I just instantly felt as though that was what I should be doing. I have no regrets," said Hewitt.
Now, approaching graduation, setting up follow-ups and augmentations to his infamous projects, Hewitt stands on the ledge of where this art may take him. "I have a kind of blurry vision of my own future but possibly can see myself as an art professor, or, better yet, a paid professional artist."
"I realized that in art you can do whatever you want," said Hewitt. "And the less you do what they expect the better." Hewitt has crafted his own life into a grand exhibition of this simple philosophy towards creating art. He'd probably call it, "a performance piece."