I was thrilled to be asked do an image to help promote WBHM! More than any other source, WBHM plays in my studio as I paint — the programming is always worth listening to! While I work, I enjoy listening to interviews with artists, writers, scientists, actors, musicians and others who are passionate about their work. These conversations are usually in-depth and engaging, and often quite funny or even sad. They reveal stories that go to the heart of how people in such varied fields do the day-to-day work and also enjoy moments of pure creative inspiration. It reinforces what I do as an artist — I communicate about the things that interest and fascinate me. So many facets of life and art overlap and inform one another if you pay attention. WBHM’s programming helps me make these connections. I'm happy to "listen & be transported" daily!
Bethanne Bethard Hill was born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and was raised in Birmingham, the youngest of six children. She is a graduate of the visual arts department at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and holds a BFA in painting and sculpture from Birmingham-Southern College.
Bethanne and her husband, artist Darius Hill, along with their three children, Olivia, Esme and Atticus, live in the Avondale/Forest Park neighborhood in Birmingham. Bethanne works from her studio in the carriage house behind their home, where she paints and illustrates full time. Her interests are driving back roads, listening to bluegrass music, and Sacred Harp singing.
Recent projects include cover and interior art on the CD "Bullfrog Jumped" from the Alabama Folklife Association, the cover illustration of the book All Out of Faith from the University of Alabama Press, the cover and interior art on the latest CD from Red Mountain, "Throw The Old Cow Over The Fence," and the cover of the forthcoming book The Makers of the Sacred Harp from the University of Illinois Press.
As a young artist, my first great influence was primitive art, specifically Australian Aboriginal art. The bold outlines, patterns and simplified shapes seemed to directly convey the power of the animals depicted. The images were stories, legends, and their energy was there to see. Often, in what is called "X-ray style," the Aboriginal artist will show the insides of the animals, as well. Their way of filling every inch of the format with mark-making was very appealing to me.
I have always been drawn to rural landscapes. Growing up in Alabama with my family meant long, hot car trips spent looking out the window as my parents pointed at the scenes which reminded them of their childhood homes in the farmland of southern Ohio. They told their stories, and I half-listened with a child's short attention span. As an adult, these memories hold strong emotion for me, and they represent a time that is lost. I would give most anything to hear my parents' stories now. I would pay close attention this time. I know now that my fondness for these landscapes is born from these memories.
In the 1990s, I had a job that had me driving Southern back roads for years. Along the way, I stopped to sketch old barns, churches, houses, cemeteries, and animals. . . whatever caught my eye. I am haunted by these places, thinking of the stories that must exist, all of the untold memories. When you drive back roads, you see many strange and beautiful things, and these are my starting points as I work.
In the South, we enjoy "a gracious plenty," as you hear folks say. There are plenty of stories, plenty of legends, plenty of moments in lives long gone. Through time, Southerners have spun their lives into tall tales and songs that burst with the lushness of life. In my paintings, I invite the viewer to look at the details, to pay attention to these stories and small moments. Often they are familiar. . . things we’ve seen ourselves, legends we’ve heard others tell. They always change a bit with each retelling. These paintings are my stories, embellished in that great, Southern tradition. My hope is that they convey a sense of place -- our home here in the South.
When I begin a painting, I have a general idea of the type of scene I’m creating, though many changes occur as I work. Much of the initial "under drawing" in black, is visible in each completed painting, almost like a big coloring book. Once I complete the compositional drawing, however, most folks would be hard-pressed to color it in because there are usually so many lines and forms crashing together. A scene with crows, for instance, may be virtually indecipherable, until I paint the sky color in on top of and around the crow, creating its silhouette as I move the paint along. This drawing with paint, "cutting" the shapes and cleaning up the lines as I go is different every time and there’s always room for change and the occasional accident. If you look closely at the paintings, you can see the layering of tinted colors, each lighter than the last, that give the work some of its tension.