Returning is work created during Hodges’s recent residency in the Lab Grant Program at the Dieu Donné Papermill in New York. While at Dieu Donné, Hodges experimented with a process new to him—creating drawings with handmade paper. Forming various hues of abaca paper pulp from pigments of pure color, then working from top to bottom and left to right to lay down and overlap sheets of this wet pulp, Hodges constructed three large-scale panels measuring 60 x 40 inches each. Once fused with a hydraulic press, these patchwork panels were cut into thirty-six individual works, each measuring 15 x 13 inches. The division from three panels to thirty-six allows the artist to play with the presentation of the piece, shuffling the individual sheets into new formations to call attention to the conditions of connection and separation, examining how each part relates to the whole.
Reversing his usual working process, Hodges considered the physical aspects of the materials involved in papermaking before developing any initial sketches for Returning. Color was one of the most important aspects of this work—Hodges considers it the purest form of expression. The artist relied heavily on his intuition to carefully place each layer of the pigmented pulp, creating new shades of color. At first glance the work is deceptively simple, on closer inspection the degree of opacity and translucence along with the subtle juxtapositions of color reveal Hodges’s intention: to transform basic elements into emotionally charged metaphors for human experience.
Returning stretches the definition of editioning artwork—it was fabricated in twenty-seven variants of each of the thirty-six sheets. Thus each paper pulp panel is unique—the poetic shifts in color could not be precisely reproduced as a result of the differing levels of pigment saturation and the way in which the overlapping layers fuse together. In this new work, Hodges draws upon and further addresses concerns raised in previous works where he has utilized commonplace, unassuming objects such as light bulbs, flowers, metal chains, and napkins to thoughtfully consider the elusive issues of memory, time, relationships, loss, and place. Returning quietly evokes emotion by engaging the audience in contemplative reflections of the transitory moment.