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Miriam Hitchcock

"I consider myself to be an abstractionist who ran out of reasons to exclude representation."

My studio is in a converted garage perched on a canyon in the coastal town of Santa Cruz, California. Influenced by the sea, the quality of light is extraordinary. We have an established garden overlooking an arroyo, rimmed with other suburban homes. We share our acre of land with a wide range of birdlife including Great horned owl, Red tail Hawk, Crow, Finch, Spotted Towhee, and the ever present Hummingbirds. Our small family includes two cat brothers and an Australian shepherd and the daily routines and chores that spring from the domestic environment are a constant source of pleasure and visual form.

My father was a painter of marine scenes and maritime vessels. He taught me to oil paint at the kitchen table, when I was just 10 years old. His interest conveyed to me that painting was natural means of expression, and integral life pursuit from very early on.

I’ve lived in Rome five times for varying periods of time.
Nearly every intersection of that great city is a revelation – a physical demonstration of the strata of human endeavor through the centuries. Encountering 2000-year-old Roman frescoes (such as the dining room from the house of Livia ), I am overwhelmed by a sense of both the very familiar and the very new. Living in Rome, where nearly every step one takes affirms the power and importance of Art and Design has been a peak experience.


What artists influenced your work? 

For whatever reason I struggled with the polarity of abstraction and figuration. Equally fascinating, they seemed to be parallel and mutually exclusive visual languages. It took me an uncomfortable amount of time to construct a visual language that I believed to be elastic enough, expansive and personal enough, to embody both traditions.

Along the way I fell in love with the work of many artists. Primary among them are the 13th century painter, Giotto, and the 18th century Ukiyo-e artist, Suzuki Harunobu. In both artist’s work, sensory information including intimate detail exists in a fundamentally abstract container.


I also had the opportunity to work with Elizabeth Murray in grad school. At a time when Abstractionists spoke about their work in purely formal terms, it was clear that Murray’s work was infused with autobiography and emotional content. The degree of invention, the playful disruption, the sheer noise level and undeniable physicality of her paintings was, and remains, deeply impressive.

The work of Miriam Hitchcock imagines quotidian scenes in which elements of suburban life move into uncanny dialogues with disparate ephemera. Along with this conceptual focus on disjunction, Hitchcock’s paintings, works on paper, and videos reflect tireless material investigation. Working improvisationally and intensively, surfaces are treated multiple times. Marks of happenstance, drips and blots, interact with intentionally figurative strokes. The rigor in process is paralleled in Hitchcock’s pursuit of a vast and nuanced visual vocabulary, including sources as varied as medieval painting, popular catalogues, and local newspapers.

In “Conversation in Santa Cruz”, the untreated linen edge guides the viewer to look deeply into the painting where Hitchcock has placed each element in a comfortably distinct site and tipped the scene. The silhouettes of two men float above a roof and a small deer breaks an internal frame to seemingly whisper into a speaker’s ear. This painting, like much of Hitchcock’s work, invites the viewer to enter a singular world where an absurdist humor and a profound sense of place are foundational.


In the video works, Hitchcock incorporates the texts of ancient haiku to contextualize loose narratives told through changing images. Drawings shimmer in the moment, as they are animated into something else. Through these flickering transformations, the animations reveal their own making as well as encourage meditation on the nature of time.

Viewing Hitchcock’s works evokes the tension between believability and slippage in dreams, yet one feels guided in these delicately tenuous worlds by an assured and thoughtful hand. Subtleties in gesture, compositional shifts in scale, careful attention to line quality, elements of texture and collage, and a consistently luminous but muted palette, all underscore the artist’s material awareness and serve to heighten the gossamer atmosphere. Individually, each piece creates its own logic and the amalgam of elements in a single work emerge legibly as a kind of poem, where there is both balance and surprise.—Eleanor Eichenbaum, 2015

Eleanor Eichenbaum is writer and independent curator based in St.Petersburg, Fl.

Biography

I live and work from my studio in Santa Cruz, California. Born in San Francisco, I grew up on the peninsula in a nature loving family. Art making has always provided a personal way of understanding and belonging in the world.

After attending U.C.Santa Cruz, I moved east to complete an MFA in Painting from Yale University. Following school, I lived to Boston and then Providence, Rhode Island where I taught painting, drawing, and design at RISD and Brown University. In 1992, after 3 years as an Asssitant Professor of Art at Cornell University, including my first time teaching in Rome, Italy, I resigned from full time teaching to move back to Santa Cruz with my young daughter and partner. In addition to teaching courses at Stanford University, San Jose State University, and The American University in Rome, I taught UCSC Art majors from 1992 to 2012.

Publications

The New Museum of Network Art.
New Media Fest, Wow Retro, Corona! Shut Down?
Think Shorts – Film Archive https://thinkshorts.com “Angels they Say”, “A Girl”
Posit - A journal of Literature and Art issue 20, January 2019.
La Vague Journal Issue V "Animal Lessons”featured artist 2015 ,
Painters Bread http://www.paintersbread.com. December 2014
Mockingbird http://www.mockingbirdthoughtz.blogspot.com December 2, 2014,
Tricycle, The Buddhist Review, and Magazine, “Thinking Big”, 2008

VIMEO
Shelter 2020, 2020
A Girl, 2020
Angels, They Say , 2018
"Some Days" 2013
"Not The Moon" , 2013
"The Coming Autumn" 2012 "
“Always" , 2011

Miriam Hitchcock lives and works in Santa Cruz, California