Art Focus Oklahoma, July/August 2013

Page 14

A Natural Fit: 108 Contemporary Artist-in-Residence Heather Clark Hilliard by Mary Kathryn Moeller

Heather Clark Hilliard is an experimenter at heart. Known for her advocacy of natural color, Hilliard combines a love for traditional materials and processes, such as hand-spun wool, with an extensive knowledge of plant dyes and earth pigments to create large-scale installations. With an invitation to be the first artist-inresidence at Tulsa’s 108 Contemporary, Hilliard said, “It’s been a nice exchange because we are all in new territory.” The exhibition and residency, which runs July 5-21, will give Hilliard the opportunity to expand on existing concepts within her larger body of work while exploring questions about the natural landscape of Oklahoma and its place within the broader context of global ecology. One of the most exciting aspects of the residency for Hilliard is the unique advantage of working directly in the main gallery. She stated, “It’s not a traditional artistin-residence where there’s work space [separate from] the gallery.” The ability to process her installations in a space she characterizes as beautiful and pristine, with a sparse quality that perfectly complements her work, is a thrill for Hilliard. The expansive space at 108 Contemporary allows for the capacity to further experiment with an on-site installation known as Bloodlines/Lovelines in which Hilliard connects bands of hand-spun yarn between two walls to create a web of geometric shapes. The red color of the wool, derived from the madder root Rubia tinctorum, gives the piece the appearance of a maze of biological material found in all living creatures. With her work, Hilliard creates a sense of unity among all natural elements and entities, established through the transformation of materials and space. Hilliard relishes the possibility of making the artist’s process accessible for visitors, giving them the freedom to rediscover and connect with natural materials, a subject on which she is very passionate. “I love the raw materials themselves, I think they’re so beautiful.” In the exhibition she plans to display a number of the organic substances related to the coloring of fabric, many of which she has grown or has collected on her travels. From eucalyptus leaves to wild sage, this aspect of the exhibition will provide viewers an intimate experience with the smells and textures of materials from which they may otherwise be distanced. Hilliard said, “My sense is that we lack [a] kind of interaction of really knowing where materials come from…and having a larger context behind it.” She hopes this exhibition will be the first step for many to begin to bridge that gap. Heather Clark Hilliard, Norman, Anatomy (detail), Commercial and hand spun wool, natural plant dyes, cages constructed to protect young trees, 36” x 96” x 36” (12 pieces). Photo credit: Heather Clark Hilliard.


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The residency project finds Hilliard experimenting with the history of the juniper tree, Juniperus virginiana, in a broader context. Despite being Oklahoma’s only native evergreen, the juniper tree has been characterized as an invasive species that has taken advantage of the changes

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