GRAHAM D. HONAKER II
I was born in a small city in the “pan-handle” of Texas called Amarillo, where some members of my extended family continue to reside. I am the only child of my mother and father, apart from a half-sister that I have never known or met. At the age of three my mother, father, and I retreated to the foothills of the east side of the rocky mountain chain in Northern New Mexico, due to some actions committed by my father that had him and our small family running from the law and a rival motorcycle club. This aspect of my father and his lifestyle directly, and indirectly shaped my life in many ways.
I grew up in a mobile home in a tiny village seated in the middle of a canyon surrounded by thick pine and aspen forests. While I had very few friends before I attended grade school, I had the forest and my imagination to keep me entertained. I attended school in another village, a fifteen-minute commute away from my home, where I would learn and grow with the same small class of twelve to fourteen children until the time I reached high school. During this time both my mother and father found and worked multiple jobs in surrounding towns to make ends meet.
As far back as I can remember, my mother made jewelry as a creative outlet, and as a small source of income. Her specialty soon became Native American style loom beaded jewelry, which later led to her painting Native American style folk art. My childhood was surrounded by this kitsch Native American aesthetic. I say kitsch because it was a watered down, stylized, exploitive, tourism market targeted aesthetic that merely mimicked the potency that is Native artwork.
I was always creative, and loved to express myself through art, and my parents encouraged it. I learned to loathe the exploited Native American artwork that drove the tourism art market in communities like Taos, and Santa Fe. Scenic landscapes with iconic New Mexican sunsets soon became another marketable, yet unchallenging form of art that began to find tedious as well. In High School I fell more and more in love with creating art. My driving inclination was to rebel against these forms of art that I had been surrounded by as a child. I went through phases, as most young artist do while trying to find their voice, and emulated artists. At that time illustration, and watercolor in the form of psycadellic, symbolist, and surrealism was my interest. I had never imagined a life where art could be a career or even something I would pursue after my initial schooling was complete.
I went to college with a defined major of biological sciences, in hopes of earning a degree for an advantageous position with the New Mexico state National Forest Department. Always having a deep connection with the forest, and because is was one of few jobs that provided adequate pay where I grew up, I aspired to be a forest ranger. Within a semester at Eastern New Mexico University, I decided to change my major to fine arts.
It took about three years of my college career before I started to take my artistic endeavors seriously. In the same instance my choice to pursue the idea of being a working artist was the easiest and hardest decision I have ever made. Easy, because I knew that I could never feel completely fulfilled if part of my identity was not attached to creating works of art. Hardest, because there is little security to be found as a working artist, and there have been many lean times as a result. I still remember the moment at which I turned inward and told myself; hunger, homelessness, poverty, isolation, will not sway my decision to be an artist.
After obtaining my BFA I returned home and soon found myself living in the, once art mecca, town of Taos. I spent the better part of two years, struggling, working for several galleries, coordinating shows for underground artists, and seeking my unique artistic voice. I met my wife one night at The Alley Cantina in Taos, New Mexico. She encouraged me to focus on my artistic career, thus becoming my greatest champion of my work. When we met she had already made plans to move to Connecticut to be closer to her family and to pursue better job opportunities. When it came time for her to leave, we left our relationship open ended, and she was gone, only to return back to Taos a little over a month later so we could be together. In 2007-2008 we had planned on moving to Santa Fe, until one of my employers told me something that changed my perspective and life. My employer, who owned Envision Gallery in Taos and who attended a few of my curated shows where he purchased a few works, said, “Your work is good, but it is not marketable in this region. You need to pick a coast and move there.” And so in 2008, my wife and I moved to Connecticut.
Since moving to Connecticut, I have been supported by many private collectors and more interest in my work. The sales of my work has afforded me the capital and opportunity to find my artistic voice and continuously evolve my process and overall scope of what I create. I currently live and work out of a basement studio in Hamden, Connecticut which I have lovingly dubbed “Breaker Box Studio”.
To be continued……