Alexis Hilliard is an artist originally from Portland, OR, where she grew up surrounded by nature and music. After High school Alexis found herself drawn to the visual arts, and while studying at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA she was able to work with local renowned Architectural Photographer Robert Pisano. From old darkroom techniques, to complex in camera negative splicing, Alexis found herself exposed to a dramatic wealth of artistic knowledge and photographic know how. In 2006 she received her BFA; majoring in photography, painting and video art. Upon graduation she began working for numerous artists throughout the Pacific Northwest and abroad- including at Gage Academy of Art, The Florence Academy in Italy... but primly for the American painter Bo Bartlett.
Over the following years Alexis was able to work with hundreds of artists as an assistant and model. She gained insight into thousands of classrooms, techniques in every different style and medium, formal anatomy, even composition and art theory lectures. "Every once in a while I still see portraits of myself I didn't know existed" she jokes. "It was the best education, almost like espionage or better yet- reconnaissance of priceless art information." Every night she would take what she heard taught all day and apply the lessons to her own work.
In 2014 Alexis received her MFA from the prestigious New York Academy of Art in Manhattan. She currently lives in Brooklyn and specializes in complex large scale collages. Completely handmade, and fanatically pieced together from thousands of cut out photographs and personal images, Alexis is able to create swirling seductive compositions out of paper. Her collage works are traditionally made "cut and paste" style, assembled from tiny separate pieces of images. Often taking multiple months to complete, her collages are involved and labor intensive. At first glance her works can aesthetically resemble traditional oil paintings, but ironically Alexis' work is completely made of photographic images. "My work is only possible in today's art world, due to our newly accessible digitized online archives, via the uploading of mass imagery over the last few years. There's just so many resources to get incredible historical photos now. It would of taken decades of research in the past, if possible at all."
Though she uses computers for research process and archival printing, Alexis does not use photoshop or digital manipulation of her source materials to help create her craft- just good old fashioned collage, picturesquely translated now for a Post modern age. "I wanted to make art in a way that is distinctively mine and visually serves its own purpose." she states. In developing such a individually solid technique, she retains the freedom to explore different themes within her artwork such as warfare, labor, portraiture, and nature. Through her art, Alexis aims to expand what it means for an artist to work with the possibilities of photography, and to directly evolve the merit and over all medium of collage through a contemporary fine art practice.
Statements on specific series...
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I had a grandfather that was a career lumberjack. This collage piece is in dedication to laborers and to the forests that they harvested. I wanted to make a work that reflected upon that dichotomy, utilizing vintage photographs future pushing the point of historical labor and industries past. The strong vertical composition and rich sepia hues, further allude to vintage pride and legacy.
With The Current: (And other nautical/maritime/ ocean pieces)
When working with natural and organic forms (or imagery), making a collage becomes a simple game of just fitting one slice over the next. Swirls fit into swirls, rushing water into larger waves... all coming together to make up a shifting and stirring composition. As an artist, I always felt pulled towards different historical themes in art- nautical or maritime being one of them. With these seascapes, tall ships navigate the high seas whilst schools of fish swim below. High action, seductively deep blue, and with tons of detail, these collages juxtapose worlds above and below the waves & the movement and moments of stillness within nature.
(And other fire pieces) When I was working on an extra-large maritime collage this past summer I heard over the radio that there were huge fires burning vast amounts of forest in Canada. After seeing some of the imagery taken from these resent blazes I couldn't wait to do some work dealing with fire. Directly in-contrast to the water and ocean themed color work, these forest fire collage pieces glow brightly orange with full range of color. These collages deal with the destruction of natural settings, protection of forests, global warming, lose of home, heat, dancing flames, rebirth (fire destroying but making way for new growth), amongst other themes.