By MFT Gallery Curator Anna Abaldo
Belfast. “Jill is like Maine, bright colors and powerful oceans. Maine is different, unlike any other place, and so is she.” So begins a vivid character essay about the artist Jill Hoy, written by Max Weinstein, then thirteen, and a friend of the artist’s son. The fact that she has this essay on her professional website as her introduction to her online visitors is at once intimate and vivacious – and completely in character.
Jill Hoy has become widely known in New England for her large, vibrantly colorful landscapes which depict Maine’s barrens, coast and villages. One may also recognize her name as the wife of painter Jon Imber, who just recently passed away after living with ALS for a year and a half.
“I am going on 59 years,” Hoy said. “When your husband is mortally ill you realize you only have so much time left on this planet. You want to cover the turf that is essential to your journey.”
“A lot of my work is about life, about energy, about sense of place: there’s an essence there, a deep-rooted essence that in our world seems more ephemeral. Either because someone joined the land to make it their home, or farmed it for many years. It’s a union you can feel,” she said.
“So much of that land is being developed,” she continued. “They’re turning over homes that have been in families for generations. It’s heartbreaking. I’ve watched this happen during my lifetime – so much has changed. Maine is behind that curve compared to other places, but it’s still happening.”
Jill Hoy has her own gallery in the center of Stonington and typically doesn’t have other galleries represent her. When asked why she made an exception for Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, she explained: “Your venture is incredibly important – it touches me very deeply.” She paused a moment. “Your work is so much about time. It’s so strikingly similar to what I surround myself with and what I draw inspiration from. I am the daughter of antique dealers. My mother lives in the Western foothills of Maine on a big old farm. The preservation of land is such important nourishment for us humans: to honor the land for both its wildness and its union with us. I think your mission is a lot about trying to preserve a respectful lineage. That’s something I am hyper-aware of.”
To illustrate how this theme shows up in her work, she added: “My work is about honoring that sense of essence and time, in addition to the compositional structure of the painting. It’s multi-layered.” Once she finds those places where she can feel the essence and aliveness of the land, she will often return again and again. “They become like a touchstone – I like to go back and try myself again to track how my painting has changed. Painting outside is an alive process, responding to wind and tides changing. That aliveness is very different than what might happen in a studio – and it’s that aliveness that is experienced by the viewer.”
Jill Hoy earned a B.F.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz and also attended the New York Academy of Art in New York City. Her work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the country.
The artist divides her time among residences in Stonington, Maine, Somerville, Massachusetts, and New York City. Because she’s been a regular resident of the Deer Isle area since 1965, much of her work can be seen as a local document of place and time.
The exhibit “The Land Alive” will be on display at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, 97 Main Street, Belfast ME, from May 2 through June 9. On the second floor, there will be select works by Philip Frey (courtesy of Courthouse Fine Art Gallery) and Lou Schellenberg (courtesy of Harbor Square Gallery). There will be an Artist’s Reception open to the public on Friday May 30 during Belfast’s Final Friday Art Walk, from 5:30-8pm. The gallery is open on weekdays from 9am-4pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.
Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide non-profit organization working to keep Maine’s farms farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate art in agriculture, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine. For more information on the Trust visit www.mainefarmlandtrust.org