Jim Hodges was born in Spokane, Washington and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Fort Wright College in 1980. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in 1986. That year he met art collector Elaine Dannheisser who let him use a studio in the basement of her foundation on Duane Street in exchange for working as a part-time art handler. During this time he abandoned his original medium of painting and started exploring materiality; this became his first major artistic crisis because he had realized that his concepts weren’t connecting with his paintings.
After living in Dannheisser’s basement for approximately four years, his creativity suffered. Only dedicating three days a week to making art, he eventually became poor, unstable, and lived in his studio illegally until Dannheisser kicked him out. However, after he became sober, his career picked up with a piece called Flesh Suspense (1989–1990).
Since the late 1980s, Hodges created a broad range of work exploring themes of fragility, temporality, love, and death. His works frequently employed different materials and techniques, from ready-made objects to more traditional media, such as metal chains, artificial flowers, gold leaf, and mirrored elements. Hodges’ conceptual practice, which addressed overlooked and obvious touchstones of life, reflected human experience and mortality.
Hodges challenged the acceptance of traditionally feminine materials and craft by expanding the possibilities of these materials in his own works. As seen in “With the Wind” (1997) and “You” (1997), he consistently incorporated embroidery to magnify notions of domesticity, a mother’s presence, and early notions of femininity.
Originally influenced by the woods of his hometown of Spokane, nature plays a reoccurring role throughout his works. In the years following his graduation from Pratt Institute, Hodges struggled to develop a theme within his works that would express his role as an artist. His use of color disappeared during this period, when he abandoned painting and gradually developed a process of creation through destruction. Color was reincorporated when he began using fabric flowers. Hodges did not intend this as an appropriation of nature but its antithesis: fake flowers.[
During the late 1990s, artists responded to the AIDS epidemic with forms of expression ranging from the written word to abstract artistic statements reflected in anger or elegy. This movement led to iconic artwork influenced by advocacy group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Hodges’ work emerged through the direct influence of his personal experience, and through his notions of love and acceptance towards the self and those in other circumstances.