Artist-in-Residence Merideth Hillbrand’s Work on Display Through September 2020
Systems of communication order and regulate our world, determining how we interact with one another, how we express ourselves, and what gets communicated. Though seemingly neutral or banal, certain forms of communication are quite controlled, deliberate and rife with biases that are not always immediately evident. The works in “Some Fields the Track Runs Through,” on view at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center from Sept. 1 to 30, 2020, were influenced by a meditation on myriad forms of communication.
While in residence at the Wildflower Center and UT Austin, 2019-2020 St. Elmo Artist-in-Residence Merideth Hillbrand continued her ongoing research into the history and relationships between art, architecture, botany and gardens. In Hillbrand’s newest body of work made during her residency, sculptures, including formed metal lamps and tête-à-tête benches, encourage viewers to sit, read and interact with one another.
Central to this exhibition are pendant lamps composed of metal strips, featuring original and found texts engraved on the surfaces of each piece. Bent and overlapping segments — of the lamps, of obscure portions of the texts — conceal as much as they reveal. These forms directly reference signage found throughout the Wildflower Center – informational and institutional – that are used as guideposts for navigating the gardens.
Both sculptural and functional, the other central work within “Some Fields the Track Runs Through” are benches made of cedar (a tree native to Central Texas), bent steel tubing and fabric. Tête-à-tête benches were created in the Victorian era, promoting intimate conversation while allowing sitters to maintain a relationship with their surroundings – whether a domestic interior or an outdoor landscape. Hillbrand’s benches encourage viewers to spend time in close proximity to one another, an activity that has become potentially dangerous during the coronavirus pandemic
Because of the constraints imposed by the pandemic, Hillbrand’s exhibition will only be experienced through a large picture window at the Wildflower Center’s McDermott Learning Center, mimicking the distanced, virtual world that has become our new normal.
“Some Fields the Track Runs Through” is on display at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s McDermott Learning Center though Sept. 30, 2020. Viewing is free with admission.
The St. Elmo Arts Residency is a joint project of the Department of Art and Art History and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin that offers one fellowship each academic year to a newly minted MFA artist in painting, drawing, print, photo, sculpture or multimedia.