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Two Questions for Olivia Hill

"People are absent from Olivia Hill’s first solo exhibition of landscape paintings at Bel Ami gallery, but signs of human occupation can be found everywhere. Her work engenders a distinct kind of gaze, which alternates between the reverent wonder of the nature-lover and the keen sight of a trouble-shooting detective."

Jan Tumlir, Frieze magazine

JOTPY: Historian Kevin Starr has written about landscape being central to the culture and sensibility of California. Has California - or Southern California specifically - influenced your work?


HILL: Yes! I think the landscape is a touchstone of American and especially Californian identity and that certainly holds true for me. Growing up in LA, I was always adjacent to wealth, but never had access to the more glamorous side of LA life. What I had and what all Californians have is access to the outdoors. I grew up hiking and jumping fences to explore washes and maybe try to get up close to the windmills near Palm Springs. I became conscious of my relationship with the landscape- the comfort it brought me- as a young adult. During my crosstown commutes in LA, sometimes in moments of anxiety or frustration, I would look out to the surrounding hills and fantasize about just taking the next exit to disappear into the chaparral.

JOTPY: Who are your influences? I guess I think of Richard Misrach but that’s not quite right…..

HILL: Paul Nash. I loved this essay.

("This essay explores the attunement of Nash’s work to pioneering geophysical research in England, connections which have not yet been fully recognized. In a context of the early-to-mid twentieth century, when geophysicists read the startling radioactivity of the land and worked mathematical equations to put a vastly ancient and sensational new age on the rocks of the earth, Nash’s landscape works, fraught with mathematical problems, equations, stones and bones, resonated afresh, beyond the confines of the Modern. Through these interests, I argue, Nash channelled and revitalized a British tradition of engagement with the aesthetics of the geological.")

JOTPY: I can see why this would appeal to you. In your artist statement you say that you use aerial images from Google Earth. And at the same time, you pour and splatter paint to refer to geological patterns and plant structures. Misrach made beauty out of desecration; a critic said that in your work nature and culture are inseparable. And yet...this is in your artist statement:

"To make my oil paintings I reference photos I’ve taken of my outdoor environment as well as aerial images from Google Earth that reveal both harmony and dissonance in our relationship with nature."

Harmony and dissonance. Simultaneously. That feels like the next iteration of how art is dealing with the environment. Can you name any other influences?

Georgia O'Keefe, Dexter Dallwood, Tala Madani, Felix Vallaton, traditional Chinese landscape painting. And Gerardo Murillo Coronado "Dr. Atl."

JOTPY: Bonus question. Where did you go to high school?

HILL: I went to the LA County High School for the Arts, LACHSA.

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Drift, Turnout on Angeles Crest Highway, 34°15’33.4″N 118°11’47.6″W, 2023

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"No Snow, No Problem #2, 34°21’25.0″N 117°40’50.9″W, 2023

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Oceanfront Property, Steps From the Shore and Awash With Light, 2023

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By the River in the Valley

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43°52'44.5"N 103°27'32.7"W (Mt. Rushmore 2)

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Tire Mark in Yucca Valley 34°12’27.9″N 116°26’17.2″W

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Olivia Hill lives and works between Los Angeles and Yucca Valley. Hill received an MFA from University of California, Riverside and a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute. Recent exhibitions include Strike-Slip, Bel Ami, Los Angeles, CA (2022); Storm Before the Calm, Praz-Delavallade, Los Angeles, CA (2022); A Fool’s Game Played By Cowards, As It Stands, Los Angeles, (2022); A Somewhat Thin Line, In Lieu Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2022); Psycho Geology, Bendix Building, Los Angeles, CA (2022).