When encountering art before knowing the artist, the imagination runs riot. Would they be tall or short? Happy or sad? How will they dress? On viewing the varying types of creative media that Rachel Hodgson puts forth into the world — from her specific style of photography to rude and crude graffiti — it’s hard to discern who this artist really is. After meeting her, it all clicks together. Hodgson is here for all women, all types of femmes and anyone who isn’t afraid to embrace bright pink, saggy tits in a minimalist obsessed Instagram world.
While Hodgson confesses to her own work being childish and playful, there’s a seriousness to her low brow art — a sense of diverse representation and grounded reality that would otherwise be lost in highly processed, over conceptualised art projects. Hodgson’s appearance echoes these colourful portraits of the world around her and her innermost thoughts.. Contrasting pineapple prints with chunky shoes and a beret to boot, you’re not likely to see Hodgson’s style often but you don’t want to — it’s so undeniably hers.
Speaking to Polyester for our What Makes Me series in collaboration with Converse, we follow the story of how scribbling on her sister’s Chucks turned into hand-colouring photographs and fighting for her place as a woman on the graffitied walls of London.. While URL versus IRL rages on, Rachel Hodgson has carved herself a perfect, personal space in both worlds.
What themes would you say your work deals with?
Rachel Hodgson: I’d say femininity, gender, burliness, a kind of crudity. I like childish play. Childish, playful, colourful stuff that’s not very high brow, it’s very low tech media types of things. Working with crayons, stuff like that.
With your drawings in particular but also your photographic work, why would you say it’s important for you to represent the non typical body or convey a sense of body positivity through what you do?
Rachel Hodgson: A lot of my drawings are a way of reflecting myself. I obviously don’t see myself as a beautiful, skinny, model person. So that’s probably where that’s come from. I also just want to represent the people around me more realistically. It’s this idea that a lot of the things I draw are seen as, ‘that’s not the ideal, that’s not what people want to see’ — I kind of want to make all of them seem lovely.
How would you say who you are as an artist inspires how you dress?
Rachel Hodgson: I try and dress with lots of colour and this idea of childishness. I do still try to enjoy what I’m wearing and create some kind of mood or feeling of fun. If I’m in a boring outfit then I feel that — boring. My tattoos are quite spontaneous. Fun. A lot of them are stick and poke tattoos from friends, which are more about the experience. It’s nice to have that, all the time, on my body, forever. A smiley flower – lovely! An apple? Great!
How would you say your personal style has changed since you were a teenager?
Rachel Hodgson: It’s changed in the way that I was probably more self aware of what I was wearing in terms of trying to be cool and trying to fit in a little bit. Now I definitely have an “I don’t care” attitude and am also able to share work that is more personal. Ultimately I do share more on the internet than I ever would when I was younger. I was much more of a voyeur of people that did that on Tumblr or wherever. I’d be like, “I’m really glad they they’re doing it but I literally can’t say anything about myself.” I was just not comfortable. Whereas now I just don’t care. I will say if I’m sad or whatever — I don’t mind looking silly.
What are your first memories of Converse?
Rachel Hodgson: My first memories would have been stealing my older sister’s Converse and they were a size too big for me, but I still insisted on wearing those. I took them from her because I thought they were cool! I thought they were cool.
What did that first pair of Converse symbolise to you?
Rachel Hodgson: I wanted to be part of a more rock kind of culture. There were bands and women like Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wearing Converse and she’d be running up and down, jumping off the stage in her Converse and I was like, “That’s cool, I’d like to be like that.” I painted on them originally because they were just an old pair, I just thought I’m just going to try painting on them. I actually liked the way they looked and wore them a lot.
Would you say both through your work and how you dress that you’re trying to actively subvert what femininity is?
Rachel Hodgson: I’d say yes. There is a lot of pink and flower motifs in my work. I am subverting femininity but perhaps in a very, very, very obvious way, at least it seems. I champion ‘untraditional’ beauty such as saggy boobs. Because all of our boobs will sag eventually. And that’s alright. That’s okay. That can be fun. You’ve got movement, you can dance with them.
When you photograph people it seems like you’re drawn to people who are either active on Instagram, were active on Tumblr, or are somehow immersed in the feminist community. Why would you say those are the girls that interest you?
Rachel Hodgson: I felt that by being vocal or personal on the internet they were doing something and I really appreciated that. All the people that I became friends with through the internet are creative people who I liked. They’re actually actively doing things, rather than just bitching about things. Really trying to make some kind of difference, in whatever way we can, even if it may seem small.
Why do you think it’s important for online communities to permeate the barriers of a computer and meet up in real life?
Rachel Hodgson: It’s a positive, it makes me excited to do more! Just whenever there’s an event we get together. When I see all these creative people and what they’ve been doing on the internet since I’d last seen them, it makes me excited to continue doing stuff.
It seems often as though your work is quite introspective. Drawings you can create in total isolation, but then in parallel to that you’re involved in communities in London that share common goals. Why are both of these things important to you?
Rachel Hodgson: Especially with my drawings and paintings, that is done in isolation. It’s usually a time to reflect a mood or a feeling I’m having. The fact that I’m sharing that on something like Instagram, and people respond to it proves that ultimately, we all have similar feelings every day, all the time.