Kerri Hoffman is an artist living in Portland, OR, who engages with the untold experiences of mental health. As someone who has battled with psychological turmoil, Hoffman’s recent sculptures deeply engage the unspoken, often taboo subjects of depression, bullying, and triumph. Her goal is to create catalysts for conversation, compassion, and education while referencing Avant Garde fashion as a symbol of rebellion.
Hoffman began and continues to nurture her art career through travel. A 2005 visit to the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, CA, where she saw over 900 artists, fueled much of her interest and was a catalyst for her as a collector. Right away, she became drawn to figurative art, imagining the stories behind the works, and was particularly inspired by emotionally charged imagery of artists such as Jay Backstrand and Gregory Grennon.
In the recent series, Hoffman activates an unlikely partnership with storefront mannequins and an abundance of found objects. Works such as Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself (2022) and Ken (2022) reference artists like Noah Purifoy and his material investigations combined with political and pop cultural references. Toy guns adorn the shoulders of a mannequin in Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself, an arresting image in today’s gun-saturated sociopolitical climate. The title Ken takes its inspiration from the finale of the 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda, while the sculpture interrogates the concept of endings. In The Cost, which was started in 2020 and finished in 2022, Hoffman uses measuring tapes and vintage arrows pierced through the mannequin’s heart as a means of portraying the cost of not measuring up to people’s expectations.
In works such as You Have the Right to Refuse Electroshock Therapy (2022), Hoffman combines minimalist aesthetics with deeply affecting personal narratives. An entirely black figure is adorned with cuboid shoulder pads and textural accessories. Reminiscent of a void, or a charred body, the mannequin acts as a reminder of phrases offered to patients in mental health facilities. Hoffman’s choice to render the figure in all black, and distort the form with found objects, draws connections to minimalist sculptors such as Louise Nevelson. The collar plays with high fashion as well as Hoffman’s vision of shock waves. It is painted in high gloss black while the body itself is ultra matte, almost resembling charred flesh.
Though Hoffman often engages universal topics like power dynamics and mental health, much of her inspiration stems from personal experiences. In 2018, Hoffman experienced cyberbullying that left her unable to differentiate between the realities in her head and those of the actual world. This led her to reexamine the ways people interact with each other, and the effects of callous disregard for other people’s feelings. In So Sorry Sperry Mary / All Eyes on You (2022), Hoffman illustrates the feeling of being metaphorically underwater—a state of complete helplessness in your surroundings. Using her characteristic found materials, Hoffman turns a cache of sunglasses into aquatic and marine elements adorning a mannequin. Furthering the sentiment of drowning in one’s environment, Hoffman affirms that “at the heart of every mental health issue is power being exerted from one party to another, real or imagined.”
Furthering her investigation of power, Hoffman takes inspiration from the current conflict in Ukraine and wrestles with the concept of invader and defender in Class Will be Restored (2022). The sculpture emphasizes triumph and the importance of civility, essential tenets in Hoffman’s practice. Throughout her practice, each individual sculpture represents a personal narrative. Collectively, this new series engages the universal, ever-relevant topics of struggle and truth.