H2OK: Native Responses to Water Issues in Oklahoma with NAC Individual Artist: Heather Clark Hilliard – Feb 10 – Mar 10, 2012

MAINSITE Contemporary Art: Home of the Norman Arts Council is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition H2OK: Native Responses to Water Issues in Oklahoma along with the NAC Featured Artist, Heather Clark Hilliard.

Exhibition Dates: February 10 – March 10, 2012

Opening Reception: Friday, February 10th, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Closing Reception: Friday, March 9th, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Gallery Hours of Operation: 11:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and by appointment

H2OK: Native Responses to Water Issues in Oklahoma

Artists from across Oklahoma’s diverse tribal landscape are participating in H2OK: Native Response to Water Issues in Oklahoma, a group art show opening in Norman, Oklahoma and traveling to Muskogee, Oklahoma. The show will open at MAINSITE Contemporary Art: Home of the Norman Arts Council, 122 E. Main Street, Norman, from February 10 – March 10, 2012. The exhibition will then travel to Bacone College’s Art Gallery in the McCombs Hall Art Building, 2299 Old Bacone Road, Muskogee, and be on view from April 6 – May 13, 2012.

The artists will express cultural attitudes to water in all of its forms, such as rivers, oceans, rain, and drinking water, environmental aspects of water; confront political realities of our dwindling water supplies; or the aesthetics of water within their culture practices.  Organized around this broad theme, artists are working in media ranging from underwater photography, to digital art, sculpture, printmaking, painting, and installation. All the artists are either living in Oklahoma or are affiliated with at least one of Oklahoma’s 39 tribes.

America Meredith, heather ahtone, and Tony Tiger are curating this exhibit as a way to address the state’s recent floods, drought, and the role that water plays within cultural traditions for many of the local tribes.  Their curatorial statement says: “In the last few years, while gas prices have skyrocketed and the discussion about renewable energy, especially wind, have been thrown around as political ballyhoo, critical water issues have been rising like the slow moving floods of the Mississippi River… We conceive of this exhibition as an opportunity to serve as a conduit through which dialogue and creativity might flow through our community.”  In addition to the exhibition, community members have been invited to engage in a dialogue held at the MAINSITE exhibit location that will address issues of water from a diverse spectrum of perspectives.

Participating artists include: Norman Akers, Marwin Begaye, Roy Boney Jr., Joseph Erb, Anita Fields, Tom Fields, Yatika Fields, Sue Fish, Brent Greenwood, Sam Atakra Haozous, Troy Jackson, Matt Jarvis, Linda Lomahaftewa, Bob Martin, America Meredith, Molly Murphy, Juanita Pahdopony, Tom Poolaw, and Tony Tiger.

MAINSITE Contemporary Art, a non-profit gallery operated by the Norman Arts Council, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 11:30 am to 5:00 pm. Their phone number is (405) 360-1162. The Bacone Arts Gallery is located on the second floor of the McCombs Hall Art Building and is open during school hours. Bacone College has the oldest continuing Native American arts program in the country and can be reached at (918) 822-1402.

For more information about the project, please visit the art show’s website at www.ahalenia.com/h2ok. For more information on MAINSITE Contemporary Art, visit www.mainsite-art.com. For more information on the Norman Arts Council, visit www.normanarts.org.

NAC Featured Artist: Heather Clark Hilliard By Sarah Jesse

The exhibition Lines of Language/Language of Lines features the recent fiber works of Heather Clark Hilliard.  As the title hints, the objects explore a connection between visual and linguistic communication. To Hilliard, stitches represent words, just as rows of them signify sentences.  She also refers to the format of each work as a scroll.  In Hilliard’s alphabet though, hatch marks of wire and knots of wool replace letters as tools to send messages. The exhibition documents Hilliard’s investigation of this metaphor and invites the viewer to consider how the artist communicates meaning beyond language.

Through complex processes of spinning, knitting, stitching, felting and weaving, Hilliard creates deceivingly uncomplicated works that reward a viewer’s careful examination.  Up close, reclaimed telephone wire and industrial iron coils contrast with the delicacy of the yarn in which they are entwined.  The handmade quality of the work is palpable, as no two openings in the loose knit patterns look exactly alike.  Rich textures and subtle gradations of color also come into focus. In turn, the viewer becomes aware of the artist as an alchemist who exploits the properties of natural and botanical dyes for aesthetic gain.

Beyond a rich formal appreciation of the work is Hilliard’s more conceptual aim—communication through the manipulation of materials. In Drop It, she connotes the idea of miscommunication or lack thereof by literally dropping stitches. As a result, large swathes of the nylon ribbon seem precariously on the verge of completely unraveling with one touch.  Through her treatment of the material, Hilliard offers a visual symbol for the consequences of obstructing information.

The work is not totally absent of text in the more traditional sense though. The site-specific project What You Get When I Am Gone consists of Hilliard’s will, which she wrote onto white satin ribbon that was then cut into pieces, folded over yarn and stitched into long strips. In Archives Scroll #7 Hilliard rips pages of old diaries and hand weaves them into long tassels.  While the viewer may discern bits and pieces of the text, the overall meaning is obscured and without context.  By abstracting and concealing the original sources, Hilliard infuses universality in objects of obvious personal significance.

There is an undeniable intimacy to the work—both in terms of the personal content, and the sheer time-consuming processes of creating each object by hand.  But the work transcends the specificity of Hilliard’s biography and instead examines more general ideas related to communication.

Heather Clark Hilliard is a Norman-based artist.  She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and Northern New Mexico College.  Her work has been exhibited at Living Arts of Tulsa, Wichita Center or the Arts, and the Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery.  She has won many awards including prizes from the Textile Society of America and the Handweavers Guild of America