Smithsonian commissions art of 76-year-old Queens artist
September 6, 2016
It all started with a coffee mug.
Vincent Hall, a 76 year-old-man living in Flushing, Queens, was on the computer at the Pomonok Senior Center looking for ways to promote his typewriter art. He immediately noticed that most artists printed their works on everyday items, like coffee mugs, in order to appeal to more buyers.
“It was then that I decided to go to the top. I printed my typewriter piece of the Smithsonian Castle on a mug, along with a photograph of the actual work, and I sent it off to the Smithsonian Institute,” Hall described.
He got an email back a week later.
The Smithsonian Institute didn’t want to just buy Hall’s Smithsonian Castle print; they wanted to put it on all their souvenir merchandise.
“So I flew down and met with all the managers and lawyers, and I could tell they really wanted to help me and advance my art. Next thing I know they are talking about putting it on everything – mugs, magnets, key chains, you name it.”
Smithsonian Institute officials also had another surprise for Hall. They were commissioning him to do a piece of typewriter art for their newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is set to open in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 24.
Hall was shocked, “It was almost unbelievable. I can now say the first piece I ever sold was to the Smithsonian, along with my second! And to top it off, I get to be there for the opening of this historic museum.”
Hall said he has an interesting advantage that most artists do not – his typewriter art is something few people have ever seen before, especially in the digital age.
“My art is done on a portable typewriter with a colored ribbon,” Hall explained. “I create the piece on two different sheets of paper and then collage them together. Then I have that image enlarged and printed on canvas or paper. I’ve re-disciplined the output of the typewriter with different equations and use mathematical formulas to keep everything to scale.”
He didn’t learn those formulas from just anywhere. Hall attended the Bronx High School of Science, where he studied subjects like engineering and drawing. There’s even a picture of him studying at the school in 1956 in an issue of Time Magazine. He went on to take mathematics and science courses at Hunter College, after which he held positions with the U.S. Treasury Department and NASA.
“Throughout those experiences, I learned so many equations and formulas and it became what I use for my art today,” Hall stated.
Most of the world categorizes older adults as being done with their careers and enjoying retirement, but Hall said he represents the exception to that stigma and believes that no one should give up on what they want to do.
“You are blessed with life. You have a flame inside of you; you should do your best to use it,” Hall exclaimed with a bright smile. “If you have an idea, go for it. You really never know what could happen… For me, it all started with a coffee mug.”