December 2, 2020

Beyond borders

Hunt Gallery exhibit features alumna

Artist and alumna, Jillian Conrad, experiments with perimeters and borders in her artwork featured at the Hunt Gallery. PHOTO BY MAX BOUVATTE

Common materials paired with simple outlines were the focus of Jillian Conrad’s exhibition “On Tenterhooks,” which opened Friday, Sep. 6 at the Cecile R. Hunt Gallery at the Visual Arts Studio.

A tower of stacked wood with undulating sides, a round wooden frame surrounding two interlocking jagged sheets of paper and a sheet of yellow fabric anchored to the floor by concrete were three pieces shown.

“I’m trying to make sculptures that have to do with perimeters and borders,” Conrad said. “Instead of drawing on paper I use materials and lines that suggest where something is. And then it’s up to the viewer to figure out where the missing lines are to engage with the emptiness that’s there.”

This was Conrad’s first show in St. Louis. All of her work for the exhibition, nine pieces in all, was created specifically for the gallery. She worked off of the blueprint and photographs of the gallery as she created her pieces.

“My work is always site-responsive instead of site-specific,” Conrad said. “I think my sense of the space was pretty good, but it’s very different to actually be here.”

Guests were free to wander amongst the gallery’s nine sculptures, with titles like, “Lalaland,” “radaR,” and “Neighbors Make Good Fences.” At 7 p.m., Jeff Hughes, art professor and director of the Hunt Gallery, introduced Marie Heilich, the curator of the exhibition. Heilich greeted the gallery patrons and discussed the pieces shown.

“There are only nine pieces in this gallery, but I really think it shows as a whole,” Heilich said.

For Heilich, this was the first exhibit she has curated for the Hunt Gallery since she graduated from Webster in 2010.  She began her studies as an art history major at the Webster Groves campus, but then transferred to complete her bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in visual cultures at the Vienna campus. She now works as an independent curator, and “On Tenterhooks” was the seventh show she has curated.

Heilich said being a former student gave her a better understanding of the Hunt Gallery, and the type of work that is typically shown.

Visitors of the Hunt Gallery’s “On Tenterhooks” observe one of the nine pieces of art at the exhibit. PHOTO BY MAX BOUVATTE

“For this exhibition, knowing that it’s going to be seen in an academic context and seen by art students, I wanted something that studio majors, (because that’s mostly who is in this building) could really think about and Jillian’s work has a very strong aesthetic,” Heilich said. “And I think that this is bringing a completely different kind of flavor to the gallery. I just wanted to bring something different.”

During the gallery opening, Sarah Capstic, a 2011 graduate with a B.F.A. in photography, said Conrad’s work is really refreshing.

“It reflects what I’m doing in my own work right now,” Capstic said. “The work references early sketches, and I like to see something come of early sketches.”

A mixture of students, non-students and faculty trickled through the exhibit while Conrad and Heilich mingled within the crowd and answered questions until the opening reception ended at 8 p.m.

“It’s definitely more than a solo exhibition.” Heilich said, ‘It’s a collaborative between the artist and the curator. It really all came together in the end.’ ”

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