Wayne Hodge: Video/Performance Artist, Old Friend
Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.
From 1993 to 1994 I attended the Governor's Magnet School for the Arts. This program gave high school kids the opportunity to delve more deeply into artistic study, busing kids from all over the Hampton Roads region to ODU and Norfolk State University in the afternoons, where we took advanced art classes by professional artists and college art teachers.
What this basically did was take all of the most intelligent freaky kids for a 100 mile radius and give them the opportunity to network and really get each other into exciting weird stuff. Wayne Carlton Hodge was one of my first and best friends at the program. We totally bonded over Big Black and comic books, and his eleventh and twelfth-grade paintings blew my mind. The son of a Baptist preacher, Wayne lived way out in Suffolk, serious redneck country, where he must have been the only black guy to love punk rock. He always wore an eastern-European military-issue trenchcoat with a communist pin buttoned into the lapel. Hodge told me one time, "You know, when I was a little kid I tried fitting in, and man, that stuff is just not for me."
I can remember a field trip to New York one time, when Wayne hid in the stairwell of our hotel at like three o'clock in the morning wearing a beanie cap he found on the driver's seat of a bulldozer. He ran up and down the stairs like a monkey and shouted "mouth-rape!" every chance he got.
Wayne's bedroom looked like what would happen if you took several libraries and record stores, compressed their contents into a 10' by 10' cube and stirred the whole thing with a big stick. Wayne's brain was just this conduit of art, movies, comics and music, he just sucked up everything, processed it, and spat it back out as either fascinating art or a ceaseless conversation.
We briefly connected in Richmond, several years after high school, and tried to hang out. It didn't work, and I shoulder all of the blame for it. I remember going with Wayne to see Cronenberg's high-concept stinker, "Existenz," sharing beers in a musty, dilapidated second-run theater. Me and Wayne and my man Clarence were the only people in the theater, and it was just like old times again.
I was going through a pretty serious spell of depression, though, and I just blew him off every time he called me. The slightest thing irritated me at the time, and I just brushed off Wayne's attempts to rekindle a great friendship. He had just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and was having a rough time himself. But like most depressed people, I was too self-centered to care about anyone's struggle except my own, and I totally blew him off. Eventually he stopped calling me to hang out.
In the relentless screening of one's past that occurs every night just before sleep or in really boring meetings, we all have reels that make us wince. This reel is one of mine, one of my life's most tiny and bitter successes.
The last I heard, Wayne was heading off to Yale to go to grad school for sculpture. He's gotten some critical acclaim for his artwork (scroll down a bit), and at least one completely psychotic fan. A google-search indicates that he has studied or shown at Rutgers, Yale, and a number of other schools in the Northeast. He may be a photorealistic sign-painter or a really lame sci-fi artist (doubtful), but he's out there somewhere. If any of you know him, or know someone who does, please ask him to get in touch.