Art » Art Feature

Tyler Hildebrand on “Retirement.”



Tyler Hildebrand is getting older.

"I just turned 33 July 3rd," he says. "I found a gray hair in my beard. It's the first one. You know what? I'm feeling old."

"Retirement Party" is the name of his new show of mixed-media (house paint and found objects) works at David Lusk Gallery. "I'm retiring a lot of things. I think this is it for me as a working artist."

Hildebrand, a former Memphian now living in his hometown of Cincinnati, began drawing as a child. "My grandma was an art teacher. I was never that close to her. I was close with my other grandma, who was just kind of a rough lady. She would cuss, and she would take off her shoe and hit somebody. That happened."

Hildebrand joined his high school football team and then his football career suddenly came to an end. "I got in trouble and went to rehab in Mexico, so I didn't get to play my senior year. It was mostly stupid stuff. You'd get arrested for weed. Or you'd steal some liquor from Kroger. And that kind of stuff adds up. So, at a certain point, they're like, 'Well, you're going to have to do some time in juvie.' It was wild. It was an experience. It was cool."

And he said, "I wanted to be a tough guy. But, looking back, I wasn't as tough as I thought."


Hildebrand majored in illustration when he was at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. After graduation, Hildebrand, who married his high school sweetheart, Emily, opened Hilde's Gallery and sold his own work.

Hildebrand and his wife moved to Memphis after he got a scholarship to Memphis College of Art. Memphis, he says, "is one of my favorite places. It has a weird feel here. It's just authentic. And sort of dark. It's got some kind of an aura about it. Some history. Some ghosts. Something's going on here."

Hildebrand developed his style, which he calls "a little edgy."

He created his "Mohawk Blvd." series, which were based on a tough Cincinnati neighborhood, where he used to get in trouble when he was younger. He created fictional characters that populated the area.

After he and his wife moved to Nashville, Hildebrand created another series called "Lumberjack Road," which was based on their lower-middle-class Nashville neighborhood that was filled with food chains. "There was this sculpture where this lumberjack cut this lady's head open at this table, and it was just White Castles coming out of her head. That was it. Waffle House and White Castles were everywhere."

He and his wife moved to Baltimore, where Hildebrand got a job teaching drawing at the University of Maryland. "That's when I really kind of started painting whatever I wanted to paint. And I started feeling older."

One painting in the Lusk show includes several colorful Snoopy rugs. "You like Snoopy when you're a kid."

The painting also includes the face of Johnny Cash, one of his heroes along with Waylon Jennings. Jennings "was a rebel before punk rock or anything. He and Johnny Cash were the outlaws."

And the painting includes a depiction of a man defecating on a wall. "It's like young to old. And this is the reality. This is real life now. I'm not in this adolescent fairytale anymore. This is real. I've got to do stuff. Make money."

His Lusk show includes about a year-and-a-half of work. "I feel like this is my last hurrah. There's a lot of work. I've got a 9-to-5 job now I really like. It's a desk job. I work at a college. I do sort of administrative stuff. But I'm liking the routine. I like it better than being alone in a studio kind of weirding myself out."

Instead of spending time painting, Hildebrand is "worrying about getting the gutters fixed and stuff like that. Just normal stuff. My wife and I are trying to start a family. I kind of like the normal stuff a little bit."

But then, he said, "I might start painting flowers."

At David Lusk Gallery through July 29th

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