Interview With Hargo and Edie
Reproduced here with permission from the quarterly art criticism journal, Somerville Art Quarterly, Spring 2005 issue.
SAQ: Although you work primarily with plastic, wood, and paint, you've used other media, as well. Is there a definition you are comfortable with in describing your art?
Edie: Hargo and I believe that labels are very important, but for cat food, not for artists, and we usually don't like to put a label on our art. If one were absolutely necessary, then it would be environmental artists with a feline twist because we work in an urban environment, while not straying very far from the poopatorium.
SAQ: You are viewed as controversial artists. What do you see as the source of that controversy?
Edie: This is a great compliment because I am 16 years old - cat years, mind you, you can do the math - and Hargo is 51, and to be still today called controversial makes us feel so young. It's marvelous! (laughter) Imagine, they call us avant garde and controversial after all this work. It's fabulous!
SAQ: Do you say "fabulous" because George Bush says "fabulous" a lot?
Edie: Actually, I did not know that.
SAQ: What is the division of labor between the two of you in creating your work?
Hargo: Edie and I have been working together since I met my wife, Patricia, in 1999. The decision to use only the name "Hargo" was made deliberately then because it is difficult for one artist to get established and we wanted to put all the chances on our side. Therefore, we declared that Hargo was the artist and Edie was the pet. And, this served us very well for many years.
Of course, all our collaborators always said, "Hargo and Edie", but for the public and the media, it was "Hargo." By 2004, though, when my hair had turned slightly gray and Edie's hair had turned orange (laughter), we decided we were mature enough to tell the truth, so we officially changed the artist name "Hargo" into the artists "Hargo and Edie." But by then someone had already taken www.hargo-edie.com, and that caused problems, so we changed it back. Am I making any sense at all? I can explain it another way later, if we have the time.
SAQ: What do you want to provoke in people who view your work?
Edie: What is it that we do? We want to create works of art of joy and beauty, which we will build because we believe it will be beautiful. The only way to see it is to build it. Like every artist, every true artist, we create them for us.
Hargo: Every true artist does the same. We create those works for our friends, and ourselves. And if the public enjoys it, that is only a bonus but that is not created for the public.
Edie: It is a little bit (like) on a human level…if you compare our work, let's say, a father and a mother are walking down the street and they are holding the hand of their little child, and someone stops them and says, "Oh, what a beautiful child!" Of course, the father and the mother are very happy, but everybody knows that they didn't create that child so that people will enjoy it. Each one of our projects is a child of ours, which is kinda weird because, as you know, I am a cat.
SAQ: Some people say that your work is not "art" but rather engineering. How do you respond?
Hargo: Well, that is simple because, if you try to imagine a human being doing chemistry, mixing pigments, adding an egg, putting a little bit more oil, more of a different pigment. Now, that is pure chemistry? Or is it Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo preparing to paint a fresco on the wall? So, you could say that's chemistry, but it's definitely art. If you imagine two ironworkers with their hardhats and a forklift, lifting giant slabs of steel, now is that construction work or is Alexander Calder preparing a sculpture?
Edie: It greatly affects the impact because the temporary character of our works, our large scale works, is an aesthetic decision on our part. Throughout the millenniums (sic), for 5000 years, artists of the past have tried to input into their works of art a variety of different qualities. They have used different materials, marble, stone, bronze, wood, paint. They have created abstract images, figurative images, religious images, profane. They have tried to do bigger, smaller, a lot of different qualities. But there is one quality they have never used, and that is the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings and cats have for what does not last.
SAQ: Tell me more, my intelligent cat.
Edie: For instance, we have love and tenderness for childhood and kittenhood because we know it will not last. We have love and tenderness for our own life because we know it will not last. That quality of love and tenderness, we wish to donate it, endow our work with it as an additional aesthetic quality. The fact that the work does not remain creates an urgency to see it, like when I throw up on the floor in the middle of the night. For instance, if someone were to tell you, "Oh, look on the right, there is a poop on the floor." You will never answer, "I will look at it tomorrow."
SAQ: Are any of your early portraits of Edie still in your personal collection?
Hargo: In our collection are only two. One is of Edie at her water bowl, and another of her on a couch, gaily lounging in the sun. Edie spends much time at the water bowl and on the couch, going back and forth, often, throughout the day and night, night and day. Also, they are gouaches, and were signed "Hargo". Edie and I have a fondness for gouache.
SAQ: About how you finance your work, it's very unusual in the art world and very impressive. You don't sell tickets, and you seem to do everything for love, which is noble. Is it also done because you want to avoid any entanglements blah blah blah, and, if so, is that an integral part of your art? In other words, if you were independently wealthy, would you just go out and do the installations and not bother with selling stuff like t-shirts and coffee mugs?
Hargo: (Laughter) Of course, we are independently wealthy. But that's a very good question and we have never thought of it, because (more laughter) … I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?
Edie: Let me add: Hargo is a very good financial advisor in his spare time, and it is thanks to him that we have the time get to create this beautiful art for the world to enjoy. He was an early investor in Netscape. Hargo, it has been said often, is a genius, if you don't mind my saying so.
SAQ: Did you enjoy "Hargo Day" and meeting the Mayor of Somerville?
Hargo: Yes, very much. He is a charming fellow, pretty good looking, a good dresser and all that… and seemed to have a deep appreciation for our work, and for contemporary art in general. We had a fun time at City Hall, hanging around his desk and chatting with our fellow Somervillians. He is certainly the best mayor I have ever met.
Edie: I don't travel well, and was de-clawed when I was younger. So I was unable to go to City Hall. I am still a little resentful that it was "Hargo Day" and not "Hargo and Edie Day," but I'll get over it. From what I know, however, he is infinitely more charming than Mayor Bloomberg, although perhaps not as rich.
SAQ: Have any of your works meant more to you than others? Do you have favorites among them?
Edie: We always say that each one of our projects is a child of ours, and a father and mother who have many children will never tell you which one is their favorite. If people insist that we have to have a favorite one, then we say, "Okay, you are right, we do have a favorite one and it's always the next one."
SAQ: Are there any new projects in development that you can tell us about?
Hargo: Oh, no! (laughter) You see, we are not machines and we do not have lots of ideas in a drawer. Whenever we have a new idea, we get so excited that we talk about it to everybody, we show the drawings to everybody, we have no secrets.
SAQ: Thank you very much for speaking with us.