Walking into Graphicstudio, there are prints and sculptural editions created by artists from around the world. If you walk straight back you will be confronted with a wall covered in psychedelic, black-light reactive wallpaper. This screen printed wallpaper with fluorescent inks was a 2008 project with artist Trenton Doyle Hancock and is called Flower Bed II: A Prelude to Damnation.
Trenton Doyle Hancock has found somewhat of a nest at USF’s Graphicstudio. In 2011, the USF Contemporary Art Museum organized We Done All We Could and None of It’s Good, a solo exhibition of Trenton’s work. He has made numerous trips to Graphicstudio, completing five projects since 2006 and with more underway. I was fortunate to sit down with him at Graphicstudio and learn more about his backstory and how his body of work has developed over the years with the help of Graphicstudio staff and USF students.
Trenton received his BFA in painting and printmaking from Texas A&M University and his MFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Since graduate school, his paintings and drawings have evolved into a vast mythology inspired from his Christian upbringing and formal education in the arts. He’s developed an abstract story driven by grotesque yet misunderstood characters: the mounds, a human/plant hybrid species, and their rivals, the extremist vegans who dwell in the underworld. He worked with Dan Nadel’s PictureBox to produce the epic graphic novel Me a Mound in 2005.
The mythology begins with the birth of the mounds. Homerbuctas and Almacroyn were an average prehistoric ape family with two ape children, Brouthescam and Cromalyna (Trenton’s mother’s name is Carolyn, grandmother Alma). Homerbuctas’ infatuation with beauty became his ultimate demise, and also the literal conception of the mounds. Overcome by the beauty of a field of flowers, he masturbated and “sprayed his liquid seed” across the field, returning each day to repeat the process until the mound species was formed; half-animal, half-plant creatures. His enthusiasm for their creation transferred to their care, and “tending to his mound babies became much more than a minor distraction.” This led to his wife secretly following him one day and discovering his new family. She confronted Homerbuctas and then shared the news with Brouthescam and Cromalyna. The sibling children of Homerbuctas were crushed by the news of their father’s new family, and engaged in a rebellion against their father’s betrayal. They traveled to the field and attempted to murder as many mounds as they could (as depicted in Flower Bed II: A Prelude to Damnation). The violence of their act caused the ground to crack and the siblings were swallowed into the lower realm. Stripped of their ape hair, the siblings procreated and produced a new race of bony beings called vegans. It has since been the vegans’ destiny to destroy all that remains of the mound population under the eight guidelines known as the Vegan Code of Economy (also known as “You Deserve Less”).
An epic tale requires a hero, for that Trenton gives us TorpedoBoy, a character suspiciously similar to Trenton in a superhero costume. TorpedoBoy was sent by the split entities of the Supreme Being: Loid and Painter, to be the savior for all mound-kind and to protect them from the evildoings of the vegans. Painter consists of feminine energy and is colorful and lenient, Loid’s energy is “stark, stern, and paternal.”
These are the characters behind Trenton’s progressing storyline, which delves into their internal conflicts and crises to survive. In Trenton’s words, “I’m all the characters, exploring facets of the self, guilt-ridden embarrassing [traits], contributing to the flawed nature of humanity.” Trenton wants Torpedoboy to be someone people can relate to; his highs and lows give us an opportunity for empathy. As he writes in Me a Mound, TorpedoBoy “can lift over 10 tons, but he cannot be faithful to one woman. He can defy gravity, but he is cheap.” Trenton explains, “the thing that crippled Superman more than kryptonite was that he couldn’t connect to the people and the people rejected him for it, a Christ-like burden.”
All of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s artistic practice furthers this grand mythology. In 2006 Graphicstudio worked with Trenton to produce Vegan Arm, a painted urethane sculpture with an attached bucket containing Pepto-Bismol®. The sculpture is a relic from the vegan mission to destroy Mound #1, the Legend. Vegans stealthily traveled through a toilet after being barred from leaving the lower realm and attacked the 50,000-year-old original mound with branches, collecting the bright pink moundmeat in buckets and returning to the lower realm through the commode.
Mound #1, the Legend is also Trenton’s current project with Graphicstudio, a huggable mound toy complete with packaging, each to include a unique painting. Trenton has always compared his painted characters to toys and claims an equal amount of inspiration from films as he does from paintings. When he was a boy, he would notice the little things about toys that didn’t interest the other kids; their color, texture, paint applications, even the aesthetics of their packaging.
The Ringling Museum of Art will feature a solo exhibition of Trenton’s works opening April 17. Titled EMIT: What the Bringback Brought, the exhibition is a chance for Trenton to show how his work has progressed since winning the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in 2013. It will entail a cross-section of his body of work including behind-the-scenes materials, illustrations, storyboards and props from his forthcoming live-action short film, What the Bringback Brought.
Trenton Doyle Hancock has many members of the USF community contributing to his live-action short film. Director Desiree Moore is a USF alum who has several USF School of Art and Art History students assisting. In his words, “I’ve got my work cut out for me,” and this appears to be nothing but the truth. Trenton is represented by James Cohan Gallery, where you can read more about him and look through a variety of his past work. Trenton’s Graphicstudio projects can be viewed on the Graphicstudio website.
English Creative Writing Undergraduate
Intern Writer and Photographer at USF’s Graphicstudio