Very Superstitious: Brooklyn/Woodstock-Based Artist Makes Hex Signs for Good Luck
Scott Chasse can't promise that his hex signs will bring you good fortune, but when the world feels turbulent and dark, there's something calming and bright in the colorful geometry of his work. Splitting his time between his apartment in Brookyn and his house in the Catskills, Scott makes art that plays on the theme of good luck, runs the Calico gallery in Greenpoint, and builds panels for artists.
I came across his Scott's art when I was researching hex signs to replace the one on our shed upstate, and I felt really lucky to get to meet him in his sunny Greenpoint studio. I bought the blue hex sign above, and you can contact Scott if you're interested in buying one of his signs, too. We talked about Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, superstitions, and making a house into a home.
What originally inspired your work on the hex signs?
SC: My wife and I bought a small house in the woods recently. As first time home owners, we found ourselves with an empty house that we were ready to make into a home. I soon began to think about the things I remember from my childhood that stand out as symbols of "home." One thing I kept coming back to was a circular painting on the outside of my grandparents' house. I think it had a shamrock and some flowers on it...my Grandmother was Irish, so that makes sense. I'm not even sure how they got it, but it is something that has always reminded me of their home growing up, a place where I spent much of my childhood. This led me to a bit of research on hex signs and their history, which then led to a new set of paintings inspired by them.
I love the hand-painted hex signs, but I also really like where you're going with the wood-on-wood unpainted signs. How has this project evolved?
SB: I initially set out to work with the geometric hex sign forms and try to learn the basics of the shapes and layouts involved with them. I was referencing photos in books and online, taking note of the hex signs that seemed most traditional, the ones you see on barns. I really like the way Pennsylvania Dutch painters were overlaying stars, rosettes, and scalloped edges. I began to draw my own versions on circles I cut in my wood shop, and then hand-painted the designs with sign painter's enamel. This first set led me to explore other ideas, and since I am a wood worker by trade, it came naturally to go from the paintings to the cut shapes which overlay onto each other in 3D to resemble the original hex sign forms.
I also noticed your sculptural crossed fingers, four-leaf clover, horseshoe, and wishing well. Is there a theme here? Did the hex signs inspire these other pieces?
SC: I continued to think about the alleged themes behind hex signs -- good luck, prosperity, protection of the home (and barn, livestock, etc.) -- and found myself seeking other superstitious ideas and objects that we keep for positive purposes. This is where the project began to expand into other sculptural forms -- the fingers crossed, the four-leaf clover, the horseshoe, and the wishing well. Not only did these other things continue on the positive superstition path, but they all carried good memories of the idea of "home" as well, so the continuity felt natural and came full circle back to what spawned the series to begin with.
Where in the Catskills is your new home?
SC: The house in the woods we bought is just outside of downtown Woodstock, NY. It is in the thickly wooded mountains of the Catskills and is the perfect break from the city for us. My wife and I both work in NYC, so we are part-time upstate and part-time in the city. I feel very lucky to be in that position.
What are you doing when you're not working on hex signs?
SC: Most of my daytime hours are spent in my wood shop/studio here in Greenpoint. When I'm not working on my own artwork projects, I build things for other artists: hardboard panels, floater frames, pedestals, and custom objects. Aside from that, I also run a small exhibition space called Calico that is next to the wood shop. I'm on my fifth year of exhibits here in Brooklyn. The Calico shows mainly focus on local artists that I meet in the area, and putting shows together is a great way to collaborate with other artists and build community among the artists in the neighborhood. I work a lot, but when I have my days off, I try to be upstate as much as possible. I enjoy gardening and landscaping on our 3.5 acres, home improvement projects, and going on hikes with my wife and with friends that come visit us.
Do you have any shows coming up or anything that you'd like to promote?
SC: Yes! I will be in a four-person show up in Portsmouth, NH opening in April at 3S Artspace. The exhibit is called "Knock on Wood," and all four artists (myself, Thomas Dupere, Kenley Darling, and Damion Silver) will be working within that "good luck" theme in addition to most of the work literally being made of or on wood. I grew up close to Portsmouth, so I'm really looking forward to doing this show!