Although Clare Hirn has been a working artist pretty much her entire life, she had never been to an artist’s retreat or had a residency experience. “Raising two kids was one of the reasons,” she explains, “it always seemed so difficult to get away.”
But she has just returned from a month spent at Rancho Linda Vista near Oracle, Arizona. The retreat was established 50 years ago by artists who were teaching at the University of Arizona and Hirn found it to be a very welcoming artist community.
Hirn was given a guest cabin with studio space in which to live and work, and describes the experience as, “so rejuvenating! It was just what I needed!”
“My stay was a mini-sabbatical that allowed me to concentrate on painting and drawing for 30 days. Because I was “dropped” into an amazing landscape so new to me, and literally right outside my kitchen window, I allowed myself to just focus on that as subject matter. I took paper and a few other painting supports that fit in my borrowed luggage, and ample drawing and painting supplies. I bought canvas and some other materials in Tucson, about an hour south of Oracle.”
Hirn has a strong reputation as a landscape artist in the Ohio River Valley, and the change in terrain provided opportunity for discovery: “The distances can be deceptive. The landscape would dip and roll more than you realize. After I did a drawing, I would go walking into what I had just drawn, only to find that there were steep inclines. The ground would open up a whole other space.”
She found unexpected inspiration in in the chain fruit cholla, which grows in abundance in the area. It appears in the drawings that we see here, but it also became a part of the work itself when Hirn filtered the desert soil through the physical openings of the porous bark onto paper coated with medium. The result was "Cholla Triptych".
Even though the hand of an artist is evident in the marks of the drawings and paintings, Hirn’s proportion and sense of light are still realistic enough to suggest photography, but no filter would capture the same understanding of how color defines space that we detect in this work.
Clare Hirn received a significant scholarship to attend the New York Academy of Art – Graduate School of Figurative Art, located in Manhattan. The curriculum continues to focus on strong foundational skills for working “realistically” from life and the figure.
After graduating with her masters in painting and drawing in 1990, Hirn worked for a mural design firm in NYC, learning the techniques of working large scale. Upon returning to her hometown of Louisville, KY she pursued both mural work and her personal painting, participating and receiving awards in many regional shows. Hirn’s fine art murals and paintings grace many homes, businesses, and public spaces and have appeared in numerous publications.
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Education: BA (Individualized Major Program), Indiana University in Bloomington; MFA in painting and drawing, New York Academy of Art - Graduate School of Figurative Art.
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.