Interview with Artist Andrew Hockenberry



Champion of the arts and connector-of-dots, New York based Hayley Ferber is the curator of the current show donning the walls of our lobby. On coming to the hotel for the first time in the late winter of 2018, she quickly grasped the intensely creative soul of Roger Smith and identified an artist who’s work was going to stand strong yet in perfect harmony with the hotel.

The artist is Andrew Hockenberry. His work is abstract, swathes of lines that are almost melodic. So it’s not surprising to hear that music plays a powerful role in the creation of his work. A self-taught artist, Andrew’s journey is fascinating, and we were excited to hear more about his professional origin story, inspirations and creative process.

You made work specifically for the Roger Smith’s lobby. How do you see the space and what did it mean for your choice in work?

I saw it as a golden opportunity. I wanted to maximize the efficiency of the space and the amount of artwork that would fit. Inspired by the ambience of the hotel I wanted to reflect the refined character of the space while maintaining my artistic freedom in my style of artwork. In this series I have the largest painting as a collaboration of all the colors used throughout all of the paintings including gold leaf which I had never used before. It is an honor to have been chosen to show my artwork in such a prestigious hotel known for supporting the arts.

Can you tell us about the artists that have impacted the way you approach your work, and how?

I take from art in many different ways, especially from music and paintings.  Growing up in a household that attended Native American Indian pow wows I participated and listened to the dance and music of the culture venturing into rock and roll and jazz in my teenage years, listening to Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis among many others.  My first encounter with abstract artwork was my sister’s, she paid close attention to her line structure while not caring so much about the end result of the painting but that the flow of lines were perfect.  I appreciate the colors of Clyfford Still; the expression of the human body by Francis Bacon and Willem DeKooning but the artist I find myself closest too is Jackson Pollock.

How is the process of stretching the canvas important to your work?

The process is the art. Whether it is finding the materials, hand building frames to stretch the canvas or prepping a wall for a mural it’s the process that I incorporate to create a custom professional product of abstract artwork.  From the beginning I wanted to make the largest paintings I could afford to make. I found building frames to be natural to me and stretching the canvas was all part of the process.

What do you have in your minds’ eye before you begin a piece?

I consider the style of my artwork as subconscious abstract. This allows me to respond to the materials and actions to create the painting until I’m satisfied with the end result.  The empty canvas represents a new beginning to make something that has never been made before, as each piece is original while bearing the idea that there is no mistake, having complete artistic freedom.


When you say that in your abstract work the strokes are applied to the rhythm of music, are you listening to something specific?

It’s the music that I’m listening to in my day, not necessarily something special. How I feel throughout the day reflects the music I will listen to when I start to paint.  There is not a genre that I listen to specifically to create art, it’s the music of my day to day that is the constant.

How does the music translate onto the canvas?

The rhythms of music translate directly into the motions created by me, the artist onto the canvas. I’m not going out of my way to make a painting look like the ups and downs of music its just the only constant, music being a part of my life, my day to day, its just part of my painting. Growing up I would watch snow boarding and skate boarding videos and the way they set the riders in tune with the music flow is how I apply my paints with the music I feel. Its how I create my movement and dance with the music on the canvas.

What are the most valued tools in your studio, and why is it so essential to you?

The paintbrush or any application tool whether it be a stick, a t-shirt or spray paint out of a can, it’s the means of application, it’s the object that you control to apply the medium to the surface. From my experiences with construction, mechanics, the military and bartending, I have found that in life mastering your tool is essential to being good at your job.

You did not go through formal training at art school, what freedoms and constraints have this allowed and created, respectively.

My motto in 16 years of painting abstract comes from an Ozzy Osbourne song that goes, “breakin all the rules…” There are no rules. Being a self taught artist I’ve learned that I can make frames as big as I can find lumber that will fit in the space. I wanted to make original artwork and abstract artwork was my fit.  I found that there was no mistake, it was as simple as application and letting it dry, a rock and roll outlet without being in a band.

The constraints are definitely going to be lack of a certain type of education and not having the network or community that you build by being in school. Having to find my own art shows and solicit galleries to show my work, building my own connections.  Not having a degree in something, you have to be confident in your artwork and not your education.

What was your experience with the Denver art scene and how did it influence your decision to start painting?

The Denver art scene was non-existent in the early 2000’s when I lived there, I had no artist community. I was an individual in a town where I didn’t relate to the art being shown so I made artwork that I liked and thought other people would appreciate.  In Denver I was accepted into my first show, the Denver Modernism Show in addition to a string of smaller shows and had the opportunity to paint a mural on the exterior of Potager, a farm to table restaurant, that is still there after 10 years leaving my artistic fingerprint on the community.

How has living in New York changed the way you make and think about your work?

I moved from Denver to New York as a professional artist. I was at a stage in my career where I needed to move forward or find something else.  Seeing artwork in museums and galleries throughout NYC emphasizes that I’m doing the right thing, it gives my art a place.  In Denver there was no place for my work, there was little abstract art being shown.

What is your favorite piece of art to see in all of New York City and why? Where can we find it?

Moby dick… renamed Pasiphae’1943 painted by Jackson Pollock found in The Met’s contemporary art wing. Stumbling upon this painting, it caught my eye before I knew it was a Jackson Pollock but my interest in the painting was his flow, style and technique.  As I looked closer, it set me back to see the title of the painting once named Moby Dick for the similarity in a painting I painted in 2005 titled Moby Dick that is 4.5 feet high by 12 feet long.  My Moby Dick was painted to the 20 minute Led Zepplin drum solo by John Bonham.

Pasiphae 1943 by Jackson Pollock

Pasiphae 1943 by Jackson Pollock

How have you seen the Brooklyn art scene change since you moved to the area, does it inspire any of your abstract work? 

Brooklyn’s graffiti scene is home. This work stands the test of time, which I admire living in a city. I dabble in the Brooklyn art scene by going to Bushwicks’ Drink and Draw at The Bathaus on the Wednesday nights that I’m not scheduled to work my bartending gig.  Other than that I’ve always maintained a live in artist’s studio, being a self taught artist I have secluded myself as to not be influenced by others but pulling my influence from the world around me.

The Roger Smith is family run hotel in Midtown Manhattan. For over years the owners and employees have been committed to shaping and growing a diverse and organic cultural footprint within the hotel and  beyond. With a continued desire to converse and engage with guests, New York and places further a field, The Roger Smith Hotel’s creative program seeks to create big opportunities, pleasurable experiences, inspiring happenings and intelligent dialogues.

Andrew Hockenberry Instagram

For further information contact Danika Druttman ph. (212) 339-2092 or email


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