Hilary Irons: Oranges and Wrack
Artist Hilary Irons paints exquisitely rendered visionary scenes that teem with nature in concert with the man-made. Plants, animals, houses, household items, and references to art history coexist in a harmonious imagined world. Her radiant images appear lit from within. Positive and negative shapes blend seamlessly, creating tapestry-like patterns. She works on wood panels with a mixture of oil, acrylic, colored pencil, and marble dust, diluting the pigments until they appear like watercolors. The translucency of her medium, combined with the marble dust, adds to the otherworldly character of her images. She says, "I envision the landscape as a vessel that contains a story of restless searching. Images of my parents' land, storms and rain, broken ladders, and stars breaking through clouds are built by filling the spaces between things with color and darkness. Trees, paths, streams, waterfalls, windows, and lightning come forward with a dull glow as negative-space constructions, holding the power of that which is absent."
Hilary Irons received her BFA in painting from Parsons School of Design and her MFA from Yale School of Art. She has shown her work widely throughout the United States and internationally and frequently contributes to arts journals and magazines. Irons attended residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, the Stephen Pace House, Hewnoaks, Canterbury Shaker Village, and the Surf Point Foundation. She has taught at the Maine College of Art and Design, the University of New England, and Southern Maine Community College. She lives and works in Portland, Maine, where she is the Gallery and Exhibitions Director at the University of New England.
We mix watermelon sugar and trout juice and special herbs all together and in their proper time to make this fine oil that we use to light our world.
—"In Watermelon Sugar", Richard Brautigan, 1968
"I work with painting in a way that allows drawing to surface, using colored pencil, stenciling, and multiple translucent layers to build a flickering, destabilizing sense of light. Centered around the expressive potential of plants, objects, and animals, my paintings focus on the intersection between clear observation and visual disintegration.
In this recent work, I have been acting as a kind of junk collector. The paintings work like wooden safe-keeping boxes for shapes, colors, and emotions sourced from the most communicative pictures, places, and things in my environment. The forms that guide me, offering an escape valve from heartbreak and fear, are suspended in an emulsion of pink and yellow light. Some are from the woods or the seashore or from books; some are from free piles and junk shops.
Like Brautigan's Margaret—a junk collector who can't quit searching, continually stashing her free-pile treasures from the Forgotten Works back home in her small room in the community of iDEATH—I am buoyed by the promise of old and busted things. But unlike the forgotten objects in the story of Margaret, the things I've picked up won't be hidden forever and lost. Instead, their images float in the golden boxes of the paintings, surfacing in a fine new story that can replace the bad old one." - Hilary Irons