In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks – John Muir.
Hilary Lorenz, an accomplished marathon runner, uses wilderness hiking to investigate ritual and rhythm that test physical and psychic boundaries as the interplay for her art works on paper. The series of mixed media drawing exhibited in The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs began during Hilary’s artist residency at Outpost Studios in Matfield Green and was completed in Abiquiu, New Mexico, one of Hilary’s two domiciles—the other one is New York City. Says Hilary: “Driving from New York along with my two Labradors, when I arrived in Matfield Green I felt as if I had driven into a giant secret bubble where blue sky meets endless green hills. No trees, no buildings, nothing to interrupt this endless vision. It was magical.”
Hilary arrived with a pile of printed papers — including antique Italian patterned papers from the mid-20th century that were given to her by a friend whose mother collected them — and her watercolors, in addition to her regular printmaking supplies. Says Hilary: “I set up my work area on a big, wooden porch table surrounded by windows. With white Christmas lights dangling overhead, I began to work. As I watched deer crossing the field at night, something unexpected crept into my drawings: animals.”
These were not ordinary animals. “A week prior to my arrival I received an email horoscope that included a ‘spirit animal of the week’. Knowing nothing about spirit animals, I did a little research and became increasingly intrigued. This horoscope prompted a weekly ritual of hand carving each of the weekly email’s animal in linoleum blocks. I would make several prints of each linoleum block, cut the animals out from the paper, and make up small stories as I incorporated them into the watercolor drawings. The more I read about the animal spirits, the more excited I got about creating their stories.”
All of the fantasy landscapes through which each animal “walks” in Hilary’s drawings are influenced by actual places (with some embellishment) that she has traveled through. “Whether running the endless green of the Flint Hills in Kansas or hiking the dusty mountains of New Mexico, or sauntering around New York City, I pay close attention to my environments in order to later bring them into each drawing, creating a kind of stage set in which a story can unfold. These little stage sets will continue to reveal stories the longer one stays within them.”
Each of the animals contains some symbolic features. For instance: Beaver, Master engineer and transformer of environments; strong and secure.
Bear, Fearless in standing up for what one believes in, but also a reminder for us to slow down and listen to our intuition. Wren, Ability to adapt and thereby become resourceful. And so on.
Grounded in traditions of performance walking, Hilary’s artwork is shaped by the space she passes through while hiking. These private pilgrimages through swiftly changing landscapes create collections of physical memory. Translated into tangible objects, the drawings and prints become documents of the changing weather, the sounds of nature, the isolation, and the singular experience of observing time through changes in environment.
Hilary says: “The topographical nature of my work, both imagined and natural, evolves from my subconscious as I shape and transform the two-dimensional space with the memory of my own physical experiences of how my body moves through space, whether it is the crowded streets of Manhattan or the rigorous Southwestern mountain terrain. My physical body holds the memory of experience that I then decode in my artwork to explore the notion of transience, chance, and difference.”
Hilary Lorenz studied at the University of Iowa. She was artist in residence not only in Matfield Green, but also in Tasmania, Australia and at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium. An associate professor of print making, she chairs the Visual Arts Department at Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York. She performed in the 54th Venice Biennale and ran on top of the Allora and Calzadilla ‘Track and Field’ sculpture in the American Pavilion. “It was hugely exciting,” remembers Hilary.