Tim Hawkinson has used a wide variety of common materials, such as plastic bags, used socks, and discarded organic material from his own body, to make his kinetic sculptures, installations, and complex photo collages. That’s why they are so strange contemporary sculptures.
Hawkinson is renowned for creating complex sculptural systems through surprisingly simple means. He frequently incorporates multiple techniques and media, including sound, in a single sculpture or installation, combining the bodily and the industrial to create a physical world in which flesh and plastic are indistinguishable.
Tim Hawkinson was born in San Francisco, California, in 1960. A graduate of San Jose State University, he later earned his MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1989. His installation, Überorgan—a stadium-size, fully automated bagpipe—was pieced together from bits of electrical hardware and several miles of inflated plastic sheeting.
Hawkinson’s fascination with music and notation can also be seen in Pentecost, a work in which the artist tuned cardboard tubes and assembled them in the shape of a giant tree. On this tree, the artist placed twelve life-size robotic replicas of himself, and programmed them to beat out religious hymns at humorously irregular intervals. The source of inspiration for many of Hawkinson’s pieces has been the re-imagining of his own body, and what it means to make a self-portrait of this new or fictionalized body. In 1997, the artist created an exacting, two-inch-tall skeleton of a bird from his own fingernail parings, and later made a feather and egg from his own hair; believable even at a close distance, these works reveal Hawkinson’s attention to detail as well as his obsession with life, death, and the passage of time.
Hawkinson has participated in numerous exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including the Venice Biennale (1999).