Now an alumnus, art major Eli Hill ’21 worked with mentor Carrie Patterson, professor of art, on his SURF project titled “Metropolis Scrolling.”
“For Eli’s project, I was on campus almost every day with him for six weeks. I was watching and guiding how he set things up, how he mixed paint, what size brushes he used, how he stored paint, how the light was projected, what the ideas were, and finally helping set goals that were possible to attain,” said Patterson. “Originally the goal was to complete 25 small works on paper, and 10 large-scale paintings, but we had to adjust - in terms of expectations - to 20 works on paper and six large-scale paintings.”
That body of work created during SURF is now on display in the College’s Dwight Frederic Boyden Gallery and Collection through November 20, 2021, in the exhibition titled “Metropolis Scrolling with Eli Hill.” According to Patterson, “Part of what he did during SURF was apply for two solo shows.”
Hill’s Boyden Gallery exhibition incorporates in-process video projection with music he selected. Using a plethora of media, Hill translates his experience as a young Black man raised in Washington, D.C., into imagery and sound. Relying on personal, distinct symbolism, he weaves a non-linear story of joy, chaos, resolve and determination. This story captures mundane imagery and pop culture references to highlight humor, absurdity and survival through gesture, marking, color, symbolic representation and scale.
Continued Patterson, “The Boyden Gallery experience was such a gift and opportunity provided by Boyden Gallery Director Erin Peters. The art department is grateful for her showcasing one of our recent grads and also Eli is grateful for the professional opportunity.”
This was Hill’s first exhibition and first time really showing others his artwork, saying he typically doesn't share his work. Hill said it was “cool seeing and hearing people’s interpretations of my work.”
Hill was grateful for the SURF opportunity and especially grateful for Patterson, for helping him through the entire process. Hill said he was appreciative of Peters not just coming out to see his work but noticing that it was something that needed sharing.
“I was thrilled to see Eli develop as a student artist in submissions to two years of the annual all-student show and the Studio Art Capstone exhibition. From seeing his work in these contexts, Eli’s maturity, intellectualism, and artistic potential was evident,” said Peters. “This became exceptionally clear when Carrie and Eli invited me to see the first four large-scale paintings of Metropolis Scrolling in the art studios in summer 2021 - I was struck, and knew the whole body of work would be artistically intricate and conceptually complex. I am continually intrigued by Eli’s use of media that are not immediately evident to create a processual body of work.”
According to Peters, there were additional reasons Hill’s work was chosen as the primary exhibition for the fall 2021 semester. “I wanted to showcase that we are updating our mission and vision as the public gallery to expand creative and underrepresented voices – towards this aim, Eli is a recent graduate – recent graduates are rarely represented with solo exhibitions – who was a commuter and a transfer student. Commuting and transfer students are also underrepresented at SMCM and other traditionally residential colleges and universities. Most importantly, it is especially important to add Eli’s voice as a person of color to those long present in the contemporary art community of Southern Maryland.”
SURF is made possible by generous support from the Office of the Provost, St. Mary’s Foundation and other internal funding at St. Mary’s College, in addition to Dominion Energy Inc. The Boyden Gallery and Collection is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org). The gallery was recently awarded a MSAC grant in recognition of its efforts to expand creative and underrepresented voices.