The incredible reaction to our current exhibition, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, confirms our hunch: people love monsters! But what is it like to obsess over every little detail of a monster like Frankenstein’s, or the Wolfman?
Artist Mike Hill is responsible for some of the most memorable pieces in At Home with Monsters, including the bulk of its final section—Frankenstein, and the incredibly detailed, lifelike sculptures that re-enact key scenes from Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. We spoke to Mike to learn more about how he found himself in a career that includes the phrase “Frankenstein’s ear hair.”
AGO: How did you discover your talent for creating such lifelike sculptures?
Mike: I started making monsters from clay at around age four. I used to dig the clay from the riverbank because I couldn’t afford Plasticine. Usually I’d create dinosaurs and such. It was only when I hit 16 that I began to take it seriously and look at it as a possible career.
AGO: What are your personal favourite books, films or creators that inspire you?
Mike: My favourite films… well if we are talking about horror then, of course, the classic monster movies – The Wolfman being my favourite. King Kong was my idol as a kid. But after working on the creature in Guillermo’s THE SHAPE OF WATER, I think I have a brand new classic to add to my list.
My biggest inspirations are Jack Pierce (creator of the Universal monsters), Rick Baker (in my opinion, the greatest make-up artist of all time), director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London is a timeless masterpiece) and, of course, Guillermo. My favourite books I’d have to say are King Kong by Delos W. Lovelace, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
AGO: How did Guillermo acquire your Frankenstein bust?
Mike: I was at a convention, Monsterpalooza, which is where Guillermo first saw my work. I had decided to create a huge version of the monster to recreate the impact that it would have had all those years ago when it was first shown on the big screen. Guillermo fell in love with it and we struck a deal.
AGO: How many projects have you done for him now?
Mike: I think ten so far… but I’m working on a new piece right now. I can’t say too much but it’s in the Frankenstein world.
AGO: What was it like seeing your work in the art museums that have hosted At Home with Monsters?
Mike: It was wonderful seeing people react to my work, and extremely flattering to see it in a “real” museum. I consider these monsters fine art, so it was kind of a dream come true. I find it hard to detach myself from my own work and look at it objectively – I still see the clay and paint underneath the characters – so other people’s reactions to them fill in that side of the story for me. And of course, for them to be placed within such a wonderful collection was incredible and humbling.
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Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters Supporters: