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i nr eview Tulsa, Oklahoma Reviewed by Barbara Shapiro

Heather Clark Hilliard: Finding the Fire 108 Contemporary

The burgeoning Brady Arts District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is home to 108 Contemporary, a sleek nonprofit art gallery that featured the mixedmedia work of Heather Clark Hilliard last summer. Memory Ring was the showpiece of her monthlong artist residency (July 2013). This site-specific installation, which included hundreds of cascading indigo-dyed wood slices, explored the history of Oklahoma's changing landscape through the only native evergreen, the juniper tree. Issues of recent local drought and the larger global environmental picture were inherent. Hilliard’s working presence in the gallery led to important conversations. Hilliard is totally committed to the essence of her craft and the study of natural dyes, combined meaningfully with less malleable manmade or natural objects. The elegant

collection of works on display afforded rare double access to artistic process and refined conceptual art. Indeed, Hilliard’s work is much about process. She travels the country to gather her materials, and the well-documented plant dye sources themselves become part of the work. On one such trip from Oklahoma to Maine, pre-mordanted cottons were added to quart canning jars along with the plants she collected, turning the back of her van into a traveling dye studio. Her crisp photos of 36 jars with dyestuff and cloth formed one installation in the gallery. Nearby, an assemblage of 36 individually framed cloth samples from those same jars maps a travelogue of tone and saturation in Collected Color VII. Building on her time as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, and intent on perfecting her craft, Hilliard has sought out the best dye teachers available. This proactive approach gives her a broad education that translates into artistic confidence. Wood Triptych and Haunted Blues combine reclaimed cedar siding, earth pigments, and plant-dyed silk patches. Walnut ink “stitches” painted onto some 30 layers of color and cloth gives new life to the weathered wood, making these works a quilted commentary on surface.

ABOVE: HEATHER CLARK HILLIARD Gallery view of the Ring of Fire exhibit before construction of Memory Ring began. INSET: HEATHER CLARK HILLIARD Ocean Bones Detail, 170 Pacific Ocean driftwood pieces, titanium earth pigment, soy milk, Lincoln Log, wool, waxed linen, aluminum wire, 129" x 40" x 2", 2013. Photos: Steven Michael's Photography.

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Surface Design Journal

© Surface Design Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.


Hilliard’s robust handspun madderdyed wool forms Bloodlines/Lovelines. Knotted lengths connect two walls of the gallery in a web that speaks with tactile honesty of the maker’s hand and the “physical expression of private and public stories.” In the suspended large-scale sculpture Anatomy, naturally-dyed handspun yarns wrap wire cages that once protected young trees. About this work, she writes “Animal, vegetable, and mineral elements of the physical world process fuse together to investigate, contrast, alter, repel, influence, and transform into new hybrid objects.” Ocean Bones offers a trail of 170 titanium pigment-coated and wool-wrapped Pacific Ocean driftwood sticks, manifesting how the health of ocean and land are bound together. Can You Hear Me Now is a large wall sculpture incorporating hundreds of slices of weathered PVC pipe. There is a personal backstory here, but what we read in the crocheted handspun wools that bind these elements together is a dialogue between hard and soft, natural and manmade. Seen by one viewer as a map of Oklahoma, resistance to the forces of change seems to punctuate the work.

HEATHER CLARK HILLIARD Memory Ring Installation detail, Juniper wood, indigo vat, tannin, ferrous, handknit waxed lined, 10' x 6' diameter, 2013. Photo by the artist.

Traditional process is important to Hilliard. She draws from a deep well of expertise and artistic integrity to create nontraditional works that have much to say. www.108contemporary.org; www.heatherclarkhilliard.com —Barbara Shapiro is a San Francisco Bay Area weaver, dyer, basket maker, and textile-arts educator who is frequently exhibited and published. www.barbara-shapiro.com

© Surface Design Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.


surfacedesignjournal winter 2014 written by Barbara Shapiro