Artist Spotlight: Jill Hackney at Duane Reed Gallery
Artist Jill Hackney began painting her “Echo” series in 2008, an experience she likens to “jumping off the proverbial cliff.” Having removed all objects from her paintings, she began to focus on reflections. That was when she began to see light differently. “I really understood the complexity of light and only needed to paint that and nothing more,” Hackney says. “All that I was working toward came together in my mind and on the canvas.” Several paintings from her “Echo” series will go on exhibit at Duane Reed Gallery from Nov. 15 through Jan. 4.
While Hackney’s role as an artist began as a traditional one—expressing her interpretation of the world around her—she has “evolved” into an artist with a powerful social consciousness, involving herself locally, regionally and internationally as a “social artist,” addressing social issues with art and creativity to affect change.
This isn’t Hackney’s first show in St Louis. She’s represented by Duane Reed and several other galleries, including the Harris Gallery in Houston, TX; the Ann Connelly Fine Art gallery in Baton Rouge, LA, and many others.
James Thurber said, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures,” which seems to describe what Hackney discovered in her work. She speaks of illumination too when she talks about pushing through the challenge of how she would actually be able to express this very complex harmony of light, minus the glare. “I came to understand how I was going to achieve a true feeling of luminosity in my work.”
In addition to luminosity, she’s also mastered telling the story of the water itself. By considering the way the light is reflecting off the water in her paintings, we can see the subtle action of the water, whether caused by a single pebble hitting the surface, a few gentle raindrops, or simply the wind lightly ruffling the water’s surface.
We caught up with Hackney to talk about her upcoming exhibit and more.
ALIVE: Has there been an epiphanic moment in your career?
Hackney: I would have to say there was not one epiphany, but many of them. The first epiphany had to be when I was accepted to and attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts for my senior year of high school. NOCCA was and is an amazing school for kids gifted and talented in the arts—visual, performing, music, writing, and now culinary. It was completely mind-blowing to be among the students selected for the visual arts program. I realized then the artistic gift I had was not ordinary.
ALIVE: How would you describe your art?
Hackney: Visually, my paintings are about light, mostly reflected light. My paintings are visual meditations; they are meant to draw the viewer in and help to calm the mind. My work does not confront the viewer, but rather each becomes a vignette of how the world not only looks to me, but how it makes me feel.
ALIVE: What can people expect to see in your upcoming show?
Hackney: My show at Duane Reed Gallery draws from my Echo series, paintings of reflections on water in nature. Most of the paintings are created with multiple panels. Three of the multi-paneled paintings in the show are actually composed so that the paintings can be broken up. This approach evolved as a way to “connect” people through the artwork. Folks could buy part of a painting, that “part” being a complete composition of its own, but also connects them to others who may own parts of that piece.
ALIVE: Tell us about how you discovered your technique.
Hackney: About ten years ago I developed a technique of using only vertical strokes to create paintings. How it happened was really because of a challenge. I was showing work in a new gallery and wanted to take my art in a new direction. Being that I paint from reality, that part was not going to change. I began to really study the still life paintings I had already created, looking for clues as to what path I might take. As I looked at my paintings, I noticed something special was happening in the areas where I had painted the shadows. In the shadow areas I was paying very close attention to the reflected light.
I also noticed my brush strokes had taken on a different characteristic in the shadows. The strokes didn’t follow any contours, they were just linear. I use very cheap bristle brushes and as a result the bristles leave behind a lot of small lines. It hit me in that moment to engage these “lines” as Seurat used dots. With all of the lines going in the same direction, I could create layers and weave the colored lines together with vertical brush strokes to express subtle changes in light, tone and color.
ALIVE: Pick one piece in the show and describe it: inspiration/meaning/technique…whatever strikes you.
Hackney: Echo XXXIII oil on canvas. Three panels, each 96”x12”x3” (below). This painting inspired me to really loosen up during the time I was creating all these paintings for the exhibit. I really enjoy the fall colors and the light captured in this piece. As I work though the process of creating art, I try to let go more and more, painting from the gut more than from the head. This painting definitely came from the gut. This is also one of the paintings where the panels can be sold individually and the first Echo piece created that can be sold in this manner. All other previous Echo paintings, multi-paneled or not, were complete paintings not to be broken up.
Jill Hackney’s “Echo” series will exhibit at Duane Reed Gallery, 4729 McPherson Ave., Nov. 15 through Jan. 4. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and by appointment. For more information call (314) 361-4100, or visit the gallery website.