Frame of Reverence
By Reggie Ellis
There are moments in our lives that only last a split second but replay like movies in our minds. In hindsight we know they are significant pieces that fit into the larger puzzle of our life but there is no way to capture them before they're gone. That is, of course, if you are not Glenn Hill.
Hill has the gift of painting those moments after the fact, recreating them on canvas and sharing the experience with others.
"I want to commemorate an event, a moment in time that tells a story and repeat in a nonverbal language where I can relive it," he said. "These are important parts of our lives."
Hill will be showing his art at the Lindsay Cultural Arts Council Gallery July 23 through Sept. 3. Hill will be present for a reception from 5-7 p.m. this Friday, July 23 at the gallery. His primary subjects are rural, farming and Americana scenes that tell the story of life's simplicities without hyperbole. In the painting "Quiet Prayer," Hill shows a woman guarding her eyes from the sun as she gazes across her crops stretching out before her. Hill said he painted the picture after hearing a story about a woman's grandmother who had emigrated to the U.S. from Germany and would pray to herself for her land to be fertile.
"If she didn't pray she felt she was neglecting the land and that the crops would not come in," Hill said.
While oil is his medium, story telling is his genre. Born in Chicago in 1952, Hill earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Art College of Design. After graduation, Hill began work at Disney on the animated feature length film "The Fox and the Hound." He later became an illustrator for TV Guide, animator for movies and then storyboard artist, director and producer for television. During his 23-year career television and film production, Hill produced more than 80 half-hours of television including work for ABC, PBS, Marvel, BBC, MGM, FOX and others. He even produced his own Direct to Video for Universal from a book by L. Frank Baum entitled "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus." One of his most recent projects was producing and directing animation for NBC's "The Family Guy," a Simpson-like primetime cartoon which pushed the envelope of television acceptance for three seasons.
After realizing that "telvision was a young man's game," Hill decided he and his daughter would move to a slower, more rural place -- the subject of many of his paintings. So in 2001, he sold his home in Santa Barbara and moved to Visalia. But Hill has not neglected his flair for telling a story. His art is heavily influenced by his animation background creating storyboards to illustrate a scene. He often takes candid photographs capturing the honesty of his subjects. He then takes the photographs back to his studio where he can recreate a moment. Hill uses vibrant colors and perspective in his work that helps the paintings jump out of the frame. Many of his paintings almost seem as though they were taken right out of a movie.
"My creative process has never been more alive," Hill said. "At this point I feel that if I live to be 100 years old, I'll never capture on canvas all the images waiting to be realized."
The painting that's story resonates the most with people is titled "In the Presence of Yearlings." The image is of a young woman standing next to a group of cows grazing in the pasture. Hill said while exploring around Exeter he came across a group of jersey cows grazing in the foothills. He said he paused for a long time and found himself reflecting on his life while sharing a moment with nature. He said he used a young girl in the painting because she has much more to ponder about the future than himself.
"It was a quiet meditated moment just looking at them and them sort of looking back at me," he said.
Hill's favorite story captured on canvas is a painting that he sold titled "Sequoia Plunge," depicting three boys jumping off a rock into a water below, similar to Slick Rock at Kaweah Lake.
"I grew up with two brothers and a sister and was reminiscing about the freeness we had at that time in our lives," Hill said. "Those are the stories I enjoy painting."
Hill said he uses portrait painting to pay the bills, but the stories he hear and his own imagination remain his greatest subjects. Hill said he looks forward to showing in Lindsay because of the city's enthusiasm for art.
"I am impressed with Lindsay's involvement in art through their wonderful murals," Hill said. "This is living history that you can view. It turns a building into a historical experience."
Hill is a muralist himself. In January, he completed a mural for the Exeter Boys & Girls Club in Exeter and is currently working on the conceptual drawings for a World War II memorial mural in Visalia.
The Lindsay Cultural Arts Council Gallery is located at 145 E. Hermosa St. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and 5-8 p.m. on Fridays. There is no charge and the public is invited. Hill's studio is located at The Rocks, a combination gallery, flower shop, custom diamond and handcrafted jewelry store, located at 220 W. Main St. in downtown Visalia.
"Now as I sit in my studio and look at the different paintings I’ve done over the years, I see in nearly each one a feeling of freedom, and a cherishing of a moment that would have passed and never been fully explored and enjoyed if I hadn’t painted it," Hill said.
Don't let the moment, or this show, pass you by.