The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation

August 24 - October 6, 2012

Where does personal story end and national history begin? Wherein lies the truth of the stories our fathers tell us, and how does the dishonesty and falseness of familial history impact the moral underpinnings of a society? Los Angeles artist F. Scott Hess explores these questions in this multimedia exhibition of the artist’s paternal ancestry that spans four centuries.

The Paternal Suit consists of over 100 paintings, prints, and objects created by Hess, but presented as legitimate historical artifacts, and supported by photographs, documents, and historical ephemera. Each object and artwork bears an artist’s name and detailed provenance and has been executed in the style of the century from which it supposedly originates. Sculpture, ceramics, furniture, toys, newspaper clippings, historic photographs, guns, and costumes advance the story. Hess does not claim authorship for the works on display. Instead, he ascribes to them fictional artists, referring to himself as the Director of the “F. Scott Hess Family Foundation.”

The exhibition follows Hessʼs ancestral lineage from 17th century England to the Puritan settlements of South Carolina and Georgia, where family members became key players in the War Between the States (1860–65). Through the prism of his ancestry, Hess examines the impact of false history and deception within each generation and throughout society as a whole, and questions the authority of these perceived “truths.” The ultimate subtext for the installation, which traces the trajectory of the Iverson, Patton, Nolan, and Hess family lines, is the seven-year old artist’s abandonment by his own father after a parental divorce.

PATERNAL SUIT from Shirin Bazleh on Vimeo.

This film, by Susan Carney and Shirin Bazleh, accompanies the exhibition The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation. The film includes interviews with F. Scott Hess at his home in Los Angeles, California, insight into his creative process, still images of works in the exhibition, and an overview of the fascinating history of his paternal side.


Exhibition Catalogue: The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation


192 pages
hard cover

Co-published by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and the Long Beach Museum of Art

Price: $35.00

To purchase outside of gallery hours, please contact Halsey Institute Assistant Director, Karen Ann Myers, or 843-953-4422. We accept cash, check or credit card payments. We can ship to you!

Halsey Institute members receive 20% OFF this publication and all Halsey merchandise! To learn more, visit








Gallery Walk-through with F. Scott Hess

This video features the gallery walk-through with artist F. Scott Hess, which took place on Saturday August 25, 2012. Hess walked the audience through the exhibition entitled, The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation.


The Paternal Suit

F. Scott Hess, born 1955 in Baltimore, Maryland, began to draw intensely at the age of seven. He grew up in a small Wisconsin town, and received a Bachelor of Science in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1977). Attracted by the dark tone, intense psychological content, and the level of technical skill displayed by artists in Prague and Vienna, Hess moved to the Austrian capital in 1978, attending the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts for five-and-a-half years. He learned Old Master painting techniques, studied paint chemistry, drew thousands of figure drawings from life, and completed a year-long course at the Anatomy Institute. In 1979 Hess had his first solo exhibition in Vienna, quickly followed by exhibitions in Austria, Germany and France.

In 1981 he received one of Austria’s most prestigious awards for artists, the Theodor Koerner Award. In 1984 Hess moved to his current home of Los Angeles and in 1985 had his first American solo exhibition. Hess has exhibited in over one hundred group and solo exhibitions, including venues in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His work is included in the public collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Orange County Museum of Art, Oakland Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institute, among others. In 1990 he received a Western States Art Federation award, and in 1991 a J. Paul Getty Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship. F. Scott Hess is represented by Hirschl and Adler Modern in New York and Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Los Angeles. Hess is currently on the MFA faculty at the Laguna College of Art and Design.


Community Partners 2017