Past Presence: Artist Joe Hopkins Mixes the Old and the Now

Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz / Detail of poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Past Presence: Artist Joe Hopkins Mixes the Old and the Now

Joe Hopkins isn’t just about the art—he’s also about the passion behind the art. The Muscogee Creek and Seminole artist, who holds a degree in Visual Communication, has an easy laugh to complement his Okie drawl. “Painting is my main thing, right now. But, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’ve worked in video and graphic design about 23 years. I doodled. I did some pastels, some marker work.” He even played minor-league baseball. He started focusing on his artwork, full-time, about three years ago. “I pulled into an art [supply] store and stocked up, and started painting. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The versatile artist manifests his vision by blending history with the contemporary. Hopkins describes his inspiration as “bringing the old into the today. The old photographs, the old images of us that show the struggle. You can see it in the faces. You can see it in what the photo captures. I try to bring that into a more modern, contemporary, fun [expression]. That’s why I use bright colors, with the old black-and-white or sepia tone photographs. By recreating those in vivid, bright colors, it adds a little more happiness; if you can add that. But I like to keep the realistic look of the photo.”

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. / Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Observers might see a similarity between Hopkins’ styles and that of another noted Native contemporary artist, Steven Paul Judd—and there’s a reason for that. The two have worked together on different projects. “We’ve collaborated on numerous designs: art, graphics, and film,” Hopkins says. “I’ve worked for him on some of his short films. He’s more comedic, where I’m more sarcastic, as far as our personalities. Our styles are pretty similar, which is why we work so well together. We think along the same lines. But, we’re not in competition—we always encourage one another.”

'Many Moons' acrylic painting by Joe Hopkins. / Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Hopkins does corporate training as his day job. His currents project delve into multimedia work. He’s taking a standard presentation about Native people and “livening it up a little bit with video, graphics, music and narration. It’s a fun documentary-style presentation. Something to keep the audience entertained, as well as informed. It shows who we are, where we come from, into the present. And, taking that into the future; as far as what we need to do to make us stronger as a Nation.” He’d like to create something more educational and “geared towards the youth. Getting them excited about who they are. If we don’t teach them when they’re young, they’re not going to know.” He’s not so much interested in bashing the past school curriculum as he is completing the story, from the Native perspective. “It’s not going to be they did this to us kind of a thing. It is going to be this is what happened.

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. /Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Hopkins has experienced life from both perspectives. His artwork is influenced by both, as well. He was adopted by a white family when he was 8 years old. “I knew I was Native, but I didn’t have any exposure to my Native past. They never pushed me to really embrace my Native side. Schools didn’t teach you [anything] except Oklahoma history. They very rarely mentioned anything about Native Americans in Oklahoma, even. When I turned 18 years old, I got back in touch with my biological family. I started learning the real history. I think that really struck a chord in me, as far as this is what I want to know. And, I knew I wanted to do something to help. I think the way I [paint,] it’s something that people can see. People that stop by my booth, they smile. I think that’s probably my biggest motivation for what I do.”

You can see more of Joe Hopkins’ artwork on his company’s website, sockmonkeyonline.com, as well as Facebook and Instagram.

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. / Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. / Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

T-shirt by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz
T-shirt by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

T-shirt by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Acrylic painting by Joe Hopkins. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Acrylic painting by Joe Hopkins. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

'Wooden Leg Zig Zag' by Joe Hopkins. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

Poster art by Joe Hopkins/Sock Monkey. Image source: facebook.com/sockmonkeyrulz

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