Regardless of wherever he’s found himself, Skip Hill is a Local. As artist, he assumes the posture and eagerly wraps himself in the mood and the tradition and the kitsch of whatever place he’s been pulled, whether it’s in Bangkok, Amsterdam or his current space in Norman. Ask him why, and it’s the amiable enigma that answers:
“Creatively this time has been groundbreaking. I
feel like it’s been my best work, and I felt I knew that before I ever even moved in here.”
Among the low-slung stretch of Norman’s burgeoning yet retro Main Street, these days Skip has been sequestered in the sprawl of his studio, and the detritus comprising the building blocks of his new series lend the pace a surprising intimacy. Private showings, Second Friday Open Houses or impromptu late night gatherings with friends in the studio, he is far from shut off. He’s struck a balance. Painting through the night and waking up to his work first thing in the morning is a new and welcome experience. He’s excited about his upcoming show at the Mainsite Contemporary, but always mindful of the travels and tribulations that have brought him to this point.
”I have this urge--still, strong--to be in other places,” he says, but in the sense that his interests wander and continue to lead him to far-flung points around the globe, he is tied to his home now.
“It’s always a joy to run into someone here in Norman who’s from another country, and to just vicariously enjoy their culture.”
Embedded among the prodigious amassing of canvases are reflections of his time traveling, painting and living in Thailand, the Netherlands, and recently in Brazil. The strains of Folk Art, Jazz and Graffiti, and East Coast urban motifs suggest time spent in the deep South, in the beach communities, border towns and the barrios of Southern California.
The influences at times feverishly pour out of him.
The pieces dominate the studio, the vibrancy of color and the enveloping tapestry of collage draw in the senses.
Under the Mango Tree: New Works is a distillation of those travels and influences, the inherent exuberance and colorful mischief masking a deep melancholy of past experience and hope for the future.
And it’s that search for harmony that infuses his work now, and reinvigorates his passion for reaching out to the arts community here and abroad.
The straddling of that fence between solitude and community has been a revelation for Skip.
Being in the midst of the OKC Metro and Norman art scene has driven it home for him.
“I could be in Williamsburg, in Amsterdam, in Botafogo, in Sao Paulo, I could be anywhere. And once you get that bug it’s easy to imagine yourself living wherever you like.”
Skip has found his balance and inspiration.
For the moment at least.
“That’s huge for me. To be sitting here now.”
And it’s clear to anyone he’s having a good time.
Under the Mango Tree: New Works
August 9 through September 14 2013
Mainsite Contemporary and the Norman Arts Council
from the ongoing series inspired by the artist's time in Brazil
Robert Lane is a writer and filmmaker from New York City.