Sol Hill -
A Fine Artist's Take on Trump
By Donna Letterese
As a child, artist Sol Hill spent a great deal of time in Santa Fe's first contemporary art gallery, which his parents founded. "My lifelong desire to learn the secret language of visually communicating was what kept me interested in making art," Hill muses. "I loved the process of figuring out how to transform inspiration into an object." While in college, Hill ended up majoring in something he felt was more practical (International Affairs and German Studies), yet, his career path circled back to the visual arts.
A major source of inspiration to Hill, both as an artist and a person, has been travel. "I really do believe the old phrase that travel is the best education," Hill smiles. As a child, he moved around a great deal. As an adult, Hill has lived all over the United States, in addition to overseas in Germany, Jamaica, and Brazil (where he met his wife). He found comfort in the country's inherent positivity.
"In the States, people lament that the 'good old days' are gone, and the future is scary. Brazil is completely the opposite," Hill notes. "There is a fundamental optimism that Brazilians feel about life, and progress to be made in the future." Living abroad allowed Hill to return to his stateside upbringing with a clearer head, and to move forward with his passions.
Hill went back to school to earn his MFA in Photography from the Brooks Institute of Photography. Although much of his work involves a photographic process, his most recent series does not at all. Instead, it is a multi-media series, commenting on the forty-fifth president of the United States. It thus ties into his prior studies in International Affairs, and experiences living in other places.
"The Best Art!," largely focuses on the language used by Donald Trump. "I wanted to comment on the absurdity of the language he uses," Hill notes. "I've used shiny gold lettering for the portions with text, which are direct quotes. Even the title, 'The Best Art!,' is a riff on the types of things Trump says." One section of the project even has text proclaiming, "Picasso is a fake." Hill is using this project to focus is on the ever-present absurdity in so much of what is currently happening the world, and in the United States specifically.
Adding to the absurdity are the actual materials Hill has used to create these pieces. The series' gold lettering is gold leaf mixed with orange paste, made from finely ground Cheetos, then layered with acrylic varnish. The centerpiece of the project is Hill's appropriation of Trump's language, using it to form a statement that these art pieces are "the best." The conceptual aspect is based on text being used as a platform for a national PR campaign. This has been designed to create a story about this project, where the net proceeds will be donated to organizations in support of the movement. Said organizations include the ACLU, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the National Immigration Law Center, among others.
"I devised the entire concept to be like the visual component of a storytelling campaign, having the artwork become a vehicle to raise funds for these organizations," Hill expounds. "Therefore, the artwork takes on actual significance of being not just a symbol of the resistance. It's also something practical, to help raise awareness for these groups."
Ninety-nine percent of the sale prices will go to a 501C3 organization that Hill and the buyer will agree to. The largest original centerpiece in the show costs one million dollars, with smaller pieces coming down to ten thousand, and a few pieces being two to three hundred dollars. While Hill would love to recoup his costs, he is not concerned about making money off the project. He wants art collectors of all incomes to be able to participate in this show, and adamant that money made off the show goes towards assisting the organizations that need it.
In the future, Hill is still interested in doing work regarding sociopolitical issues. In 2012, he created a multi-media art project and installation having to do with surveillance, titled "Suspicious Privacy."
He would next like to tackle the issues of mass shooting and gun control. He has plans to create an interactive installation, shaped like the barrel of a gun. Ghostly moving images would be projected inside the chamber, where there would also be large black panels with white paint markers where viewers could climb inside to draw, write, or respond in any way they wanted to the imagery inside. This piece would not be addressing whether or not people should own guns. Instead, it would broach Hill's question: "What is the cost to this country, of finding solutions through the barrel of a gun?" Hill envisions that this project would ideally be produced via fundraising and grants, and ultimately be displayed somewhere affected by gun violence. The project would serve as a vehicle for the community to come together and heal.
For now, Hill is focused on the release of "The Best Art!" Those who wish to see the project in person can see its initial installation in the front half of Hill's studio. He is excited to see how interactive this project will ultimately be. "This really is a call to action," Hill emphasizes. "I want to use art as a vehicle to invite others to participate in a collaborative project, to help our best organizations keep fighting. I believe in the America that believes in tolerance, choices, values the strength of multiculturalism, values immigrants, education, and most importantly, in the value of decency and looking out for one another."
To view more of Sol Hill's work, please visit his website at www.SolHill.com.
All viewers can see "The Best Art!" and purchase reproductions online, at www.SolHill.com/the-best-art-ever.
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