Dorothy Hoover

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What Is My Work About? 

Through performance, installation, photography and writing, I create image-based environments of disquiet and unease. Within the narration of my work there is always the intimation of violence. I fuse my own experience as a woman living in an urban space with fictional portrayals of the brutality found in traditional American westerns, slapstick comedy, classic rock songs and detective novels. I merge and collage disparate materials and references together in my work where moments of tension, humor, agitation, and beauty co-exist.

Artist Statement

For the past three years I have been working primarily in performance. Evolving from my background as a set designer, I make short, abstract plays, which I independently write, direct, and design.  Since August 2014, I have been creating sculptures collaged from set pieces and props from my performances along with new materials. In a sense, these new pieces are a continuation of my performances. There are hints of past actions and uses of the objects, but without resolution. I have used many of the same pieces in multiple performances. Using them now in a more static form feels like a natural next step. Stemming from my aesthetic interest in improvisation, messiness and discordant tones, this regeneration of worn objects helps create a sense of compelling unease.

My performances over the last two years are part of a body of work that I’ve loosely titled “The Hollywood Dell Trilogy.” It includes “A Typical California Room During the Decline of the West,” “The Hits Just Keep On Coming,” “Land of the Locusts” and a shorter capsule play titled “Drive Time Music.” This series examines an ominous Americana, specifically that of Hollywood. The name comes from the hidden area between Hollywood and the Hills where I lived for a year. It was here my fascination of L.A. history came to a head as my neighbors told me outrageous stories of past residents like Bela Lugosi and Mary Pickford.  I came to regard it as a haunted neighborhood and that haunted feeling fueled the creation of these performances.

The scripts are collages of original prose, found texts, song lyrics and dialogue from movies and novels such as Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” and the sermons of Aimee Temple McPherson. A loose narrative follows the heroine Constance from play to play as three criminal brothers pursue her. I use choreography and blocking to explore the trio’s physical threat to Constance as they outnumber her, as well as the anarchic chaos found in the slapstick of famous trios such as the Marx Brothers.

The series of sculptures I’m currently working on is titled “Clair Tappan Lodge,” a reference to the supposed location of the gravesite of Donna Lass, a nurse who may have been a victim of the infamous Zodiac Killer. The only thing found at Lass’ gravesite was a pair of sunglasses, and similarly, each of my sculptures is devoid of a body. In these new works, the absence of physicality formerly articulated by actors is arrested in the composition of the installations, be it in an empty and cut up chair and a shirt frozen into position as seen in my piece “Waiting Room.”

The absent body is also present in the surface treatment of my sculpture, “Gravesite.” This work directly references my own body, specifically the way in which my skin easily bruises.  The triangular structure was originally built as a large-scale bowling trophy and used in my performance “A Typical California Room During the Decline of the West.” I have since covered the surface with several coats of polyurethane and spray paint, transforming this plywood trophy into a vivid bruise.

The trophy in “Gravesite” sits atop my marquee box from “a Still—Volcano—Life,” a performance from 2012. It theatrically lights a discarded pair of glasses tossed in a pile of sand. This exact pair of glasses has been an integral prop in three of my plays, serving as a “mask” for the primary antagonist when combined with a nose bandage and ball cap, which is both disturbing and humorous. The gold neck cord of the glasses is broken, suggesting a sudden act of aggression.

I am also currently working in collaboration with designer Becca Lofchie on an artist book called “West of the Rockies,” our second book together. Each page of text is an anonymous monologue complemented by photographs of either a location or an object, alluding to a crime scene. The first, “Another Sound on a Thursday Night in Southern California,” is a handmade booklet and companion piece to “The Hits Just Keep On Coming.” My primary interest for this book was illustrating sound through design. The movement of the text across the page echoes the way it was spoken in the performance be it hurried, meditative or halting.  Songs used in the piece, such as “Sleepwalkin’ ” by Modest Mouse, are mixed up with a monologue to capture visually how one would experience an actor speaking over a song in the performance.




2012 MFA, Scenic Design, California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, CA

2005 BA, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY



2014, “Land of the Locusts,” KCHUNG FM, Los Angeles, CA

2014, “Drive Time Music,” Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA

2014, “The Hits Just Keep On Coming,” PAM, Los Angeles, CA

2013, “A Typical California Room During the Decline of the West,” Honor Fraser, Los Angeles, CA

2012, “a Still—Volcano—Life,” Honor Fraser, Los Angeles, CA

2012, “a Still—Volcano—Life,” ONE Archive Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2012, “a Still—Volcano—Life,” Brewery Arts Complex, Los Angeles, CA



2012, “Pith/Peel,” California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

2011, “Becoming Sculpture,” California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

2005, “Juried Show,” Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY

2004, “Closings,” Temple University Rome, Rome, IT



2014, PAM, Los Angeles, CA

2013, Contemporary Art Center at Woodside, Troy, NY



2014, Carol Che, “Dorothy Hoover at PAM,” Another Righteous Transfer,