Silhouette is a new column on The Bottom Line featuring profiles of artists in The Drawing Center’s Viewing Program, written by Viewing Program Curator Lisa Sigal.
I recently met with Hillary Mushkin one morning on the Los Angeles River to paint together and talk about her project Incendiary Traces. Hillary did not paint from the landscape that day; instead she was finishing one of her watercolor drawings from a September trip to the headquarters of Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense technology manufacturer.
Incendiary Traces exists in the public realm, but at locations that are generally out of sight. Hillary organizes trips to military sites in Southern California, inviting all kinds of people to join: artists, poets, historians, and geographers are often included. We had an interesting conversation about the history of the landscape at the Border Field State Park in San Diego, which was the destination of her latest outing. She described the drama of the park up on a mesa, with an unobstructed view of the border fence bisecting the landscape and reaching into the ocean separating the US from Mexico.
Hillary also described the difficulty she encountered that mid-November day. She had not planned for rain—who would in sunny California? She and a group of about 20 people could not drive directly to the park because the road leading there was flooded. Instead, they all had to park and hike a mile and a half to reach their lookout. The folks that joined her were really into it, and after the trek they were much more committed to staying the day. They drew, wrote, and shared thoughts about the charged landscape. I loved Hillary’s description of the border control guards who follow the horizon for illegal boats trying to enter the States. She imagined the odd moments when the patrolmen posted there might be having a similar feeling looking at the horizon as she was.
Hillary’s relationship to the resulting drawings is unlike most artists’; she is not invested in them as finished objects. With this project she is trying to step out of what she calls an “art context,” and to question who her public is. The unexpected encounters with random people during these trips is what seems to inspire her most, and she sees her drawings as souvenirs of the experience. In the end Incendiary Traces is the drawings, the panels, the artifacts, the maps, and the stories that trace the landscape.
More specific information on each drawing session has been written about here on KCET TV’s online Artbound series.
–Lisa Sigal, Viewing Program Curator
Established in 1977, The Drawing Center’s Viewing Program offers emerging artists the opportunity to include their work in a curated Artist Registry that is consulted by a wide variety of arts professionals from across the globe: curators, gallerists, collectors, and educators, among others. Artists accepted into the Viewing Program are also invited to meet one-on-one with the Viewing Program Curator to review and discuss a recent selection of their work. This informal conversation provides artists with a valuable opportunity to engage in a critical discussion of their practice.