Making the Ultimate Remix Can Take Fifty Years

Valerie Hoh needs several venues to house her exploring creativity. (The artist wears her own clothes in the portrait, and will sell them out of her home studio during the Kenilworth tour, but her clothing on display in local galleries are conceptual art pieces.) Portrait by Lauren Rutten

Valerie Hoh spent her year of isolation “exploding with creativity.” The result is three wildly inventive new collections — and, happily, two progressive new venues to exhibit them. Hoh ArtWorx opened in Mars Landing Galleries in Mars Hill in July; in September, Hoh ReWorx and Hoh Couture will debut in the 50,000-square-foot Marquee, a design-centric marketplace on Foundy Street in the River Arts District.

It’s one way to get her work off the floor of her studio, which overlooks Biltmore Village with a view of the mountains. “I have a narrow path to walk through my studio,” she admits with a laugh. “Every surface is covered because I am working simultaneously on about 10 pieces.”

Model Lillian Tew wears a Hoh wrap on her head and Afro-Beat earrings made of ceramic. The Hoh Couture dress she holds in front of her is made from torn and painted brown paper bags and assembled using utilitarian safety pins. (It’s an art piece and not for wearing). Right: A recent piece from the Hoh Couture line.

Sixty years ago, when 12-year-old Valerie told her parents in Hong Kong she wanted to be an artist, she says they were horrified. “They wanted me to be a doctor, or at least marry a doctor!” Even so, when she was ready to go to college, they supported her enrolling in art school in England, where she was enthralled by the once-in-a-lifetime experience of madcap London in the ’60s.

Early on, an instructor noticed her love of creating design and pattern and steered her to study textiles. Hoh never stopped studying and learning. When she and her then-husband moved to the States — eventually landing in Key West — she learned ceramics, made tiles, and painted clothing. When she outgrew her first small gallery, Hoh Designs, she supersized her vision, leasing a 6000-square-foot former auto showroom and opening the multi-use gallery/shop Pandemonium. “It was a huge corner space on Duval [Street] with the most beautiful big windows,” she remembers. She took the front section to create, display, and sell her work, and rented the middle to a glassmaker. In the rear, metal artist Cynthia Wynn took up residence to turn the tons of scrap she and Hoh scavenged into a collection of futuristic, industrial furniture, including a 2,000-pound bed.

Ceremonial Connection #4

And then, in 2004, Hoh hauled it all in a flatbed truck to Asheville.

Here, she tapped into a passion for fashion — Hoh Couture has both wearable clothing and paper fashion assemblages — and discovered not only a keen interest in exploring mixed media but a plethora of junkyards yielding raw materials.

“I don’t know what took me so long to discover [mixed media],” she marvels. It is, she points out, “the expression of all my interests — textiles, ceramics, fashion, salvage, and nature. I can put everything I love into one thing.”

Hoh ArtWorx at Mars Landing exhibits her totems, modern abstract paintings, and mixed media; when Marquee opens in September, it will be the home for Hoh Couture paper fashion and Hoh ReWorx’s Ikebana Industrial and Modern Industrial lines of sculptural objects and installations.

“Fifty years of creativity in many mediums has brought me to doing what I am doing now,” she says. “I am having the time of my life.”

Valerie Hoh, Asheville. The exhibit “Hoh ArtWorx” will be at Mars Landing Galleries through October (37 Library St., Mars Hill, marslandinggalleries.com). Hoh Couture and Hoh ReWorx will be at Marquee beginning in September (36 Foundy St., River Arts District, marqueeasheville.com). The artist will participate in the Kenilworth Artists Studio Tour, happening Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10, kenilworthartists.org.

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