Dennis Hlynsky: Artist & Dept Head of the Film/Animation/video Department at the Rhode Island School of Design

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Dennis resides in Providence, Rhode Island where he is a Professor at the RI School of Design. He is a practicing artist, teacher, and an early adopter of electronic media. Drawing and photography were primary studies but soon gave way to video in 1972. The US bicentennial began his study of celebration as a long form time art form. This in turn led to the study of small animals gathered en masse as annual events. Dennis incorporated ever evolving electronic media technologies into his artistic practice. The early experimental video mode incorporating analog image synthesis was replaced with a decade of documentary. Between the years of 1977 to 1987 Dennis recorded people in life threatened medical situations. The Videoanalysis project at RI Hospital  produced video recordings used to inform medical professionals as well as give voice to patients on the international stage.

Selected exhibits include – Hiroshima City MOCA, 3/2016; National Museum of Wildlife art of the United States; Tazmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Spring 2016; Höhenrausch, Summer 2015, OK Center for Contemporary Art, Linz; Trans-ideology: Nostalgia, MOCA Taipei, 20/2015, Transartfest, Berlin, Germany 2013, For the Birds Palo Alto Art Center, Jan 2016.

What do you do best?

I am a good teacher and practicing artist. A long time ago in school I scored tops in abstract and spacial reasoning. I really enjoy the puzzle of thinking in multiple dimensions. My family says I make tasty lamb chops over a real fire.

What makes you the best?

While I don't believe I am the best I have learned to recognize the times I feel I'm at the top of my game.  I'm grateful to live in an emerging age when a wealth of knowledge and entertainment is at our fingertips – but I enjoy life most when directly watching and observing the physical world I inhabit. Even the most common things become miraculous. I like to suspend my access to the online encyclopedia, get off my phone, leave my computer, and surrounded myself with mundane but spectacular nonsense.

I believe what makes us human is the sense we make of this nonsense. The narratives we derive from the things we see. When I’m working I tend to diminish the facts I carry in my head. The presence of unquestionable knowledge can be an insurmountable wall. It is good to remember that we humans are the ones who attach stories to our perceptions. After observing critically and naively - I begin to ask questions. Forming heuristic impressions by summing the parts is something my species does very well. I am "the best" of my human self when I can find the time to be an observational human being without preconceptions and critically examine the nature of what I am seeing.

What are your aspirations?

As much as I love teaching and working with the wonderful students attracted to RISD - I would like to have the time and the resources to travel and make artworks.  I want to record the flight of European Honey Vultures; experience the swarms of Starlings at Oxfordshire; reconnect with the project at URI tracking plankton; get better at coding; go to Mexico and be among the butterflies; ... be able to take care of all my email in one day,  I aspire to be old and happy.

Biggest Success?

If this question were with regard to professional activities I would say the reach of my artworks published at and the varied correspondence I have received as a result. Personally, without question I am most proud of my son and the partnership with my wife.

Most Challenging Moment?

I want to say - wrestling with adolescent urges ... everything got easier after that. I suppose I could list a decade of  making films as a resident artist in a children's oncology department; or the politics of administrating a department in an a well respected art school. These things were/are difficult and have stretched my skills. I am most challenged  when I'm given the responsibility for action without the actual authority to do anything. Having responsibility for fast, cheap and out of control web like systems takes a huge amount of patience and the ability to stand back and prune or urge without being overly controlling.  

Favorite Motto?

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." while attributed to Sigmund Freud - it was most likely not said by him although he did smoke cigars. (read phalus on fire if you like) Freud was often asked about the connection between his love of a good cigar and his theories. So, it is possible he said it although there is no conclusive proof. I like the motto because it's an encouragement not to overthink something even though you've put a lot of thought into it.

Favorite People?

Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton also known as Papa Flash, Étienne-Jules Marey, Berenice Abbott, O Winston Link are favorite photographers. Edward Osborne Wilson is in there as well.

Favorite Places?

I really enjoy sitting in a heated automobile seat while on a long drive with my wife Jamie. I'm unusually attracted to anyplace where there is a fire. (bonfire, fireplace, burning building, backyard grill)  Places... Prague is probably my favorite city followed by New York City. My least favorite place is stuck on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. Over the past few years a place that has grown on me is the middle of a Wall Mart parking lot while watching the starlings negotiate position on the overhead electric lines.

Favorite Products?

Part of me wants to ask...Do you want a specific brand or does this include anything man made? I do favor Gaffers Tape, Hot Glue, Beeswax, Black Magic Pocket Cameras, Autodesk Maya, Adobe CC, Verizon's wireless network, Supermarket chains that carry local foods, and Just about anything that's hand crafted with care and consciousness including really really bad paintings. Most of the time the products I favor are well designed and elegant ... hmmm is gaffers tape elegant?... I suppose pleasingly ingenious and simple is more like it.

Current Passions?

I've recently taken an interest in the overhead wires that carry electricity and communications. I'm particularly interested in the evolution of design for insulators, pot heads, fuse cutouts, lightening interrupters, the design of attaching brackets, as well as step down transformers. I am fascinated by the idea of linemen hanging on a strap surrounded by danger. I like comparing the different styles of running the wires to all the components.  It drives my wife crazy when we're in the car because she catches me looking at overhead lines while driving. It's just a phase. In the past I have had obsessive passion directed at the shape variations of human ears, the history of the flea circus (I had to make one once), particle systems, magic lantern slides and apparatus... and of course the motion of many creatures moving en masse.