Arts Writing Artist Features

Blair Saxon-Hill

Blair Saxon-Hill. Oregon Arts Commission Fellow. 2016.

Photo: Greg Wahl-Stephens

Originally published January, 2016

“I have never wanted to be an artist that keeps doing what works.  I have always wanted to turn the dial a little more,” says Blair Saxon-Hill. She has made gestural gouache paintings that masterfully amplify the fewest brushstrokes. She has made moody collaged prints of and on the black and white pages of aged books that document Modernist sculpture, and sculptures that echoed or responded to those forms. And more recently, she has combined objects and images into assemblage and collaged sculptures with an aesthetic that embraces the age and patina.

At her recent show at Fourteen30, Burt Reynolds / Hephaestus, 2015 included a Vision brand jacket, a fishing net she’d repaired with macramé and crochet, Japanese wallpaper, a Portland Art Museum exhibition poster, the Burt Reynolds Cosmo centerfold and more than half a dozen other materials and objects in an artwork that featured a complex “kite” tethered in a loose tangle to a stick. The piece exemplifies Saxon-Hill’s current practice: a complex clutch of materials deftly handled; a sly sense of humor; a feeling of tenuousness.

Saxon-Hill notes that the collages and subsequent works consider the art viewership in an era when art is often perceived as a jpeg on a screen. She says, “I play with our sense of knowing that something is a painting or sculpture or a document (is it an image of art or an art image?).” In addition to privileging physical viewership, she has also long dealt with ideas around space, fore- and backgrounds and “borrowing,” as she puts it, not appropriating, elements of language and material from the “library of materials” in her studio.

Saxon-Hill was included in Disjecta’s Portland2014 Biennial and has recently shown at the Lumber Room and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Her work is included in the collections of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art and Reed College. She has received grants including The Ford Family Foundation Golden Spot Award and an Oregon Arts Commission Career Opportunity Grant, and was shortlisted for the Henry Art Gallery’s Brink Award. Saxon-Hill holds a BFA from Reed College. She is co-owner of Monograph Bookwerks.