The Unnatural Wonders of the World

Perched at the window, Meghan Hildebrand grabs her cup of tea and gazes out at the city’s Main Street with a comfortable smile. Whitehorse is both a familiar and unfamiliar atmosphere for her.

It was her childhood home in the past, but now the Powell River, B.C.-based artist says it seems altered each time she returns.

Nervous energy was included in her most recent visit – a series of Hildebrand’s paintings are currently showing at the Yukon Arts Centre Public Art Gallery.

“I don’t have any problem doing a show with strangers, but when your parent’s friends and all your old friends from school are coming …” she says, trailing off with a smirk.

Eighteen large-scale contemporary abstract works are featured in Don’t Cut the Leg Off Because You Need Red Paint, exposing Hildebrand’s whimsical and chaotically engaging interpretations of urban transformation.

“I like the show to be as if you’re travelling on a trip,” she explains. “So at the show you’re going to go to 18 different places and I call these the unnatural wonders of the world. The things we’ve done to our landscapes that make them different.”

Hildebrand’s work zeros in on space and place in the world and how we change environments to meet modern priorities. The show examines the dualities of natural and industrial, while also striving to uncover beauty.

“I do want to talk about the threats in the world, but my deep feeling is a real feeling of hope and joy,” she says.

As for the exhibition’s title, Hildebrand says it consciously plays on a kitschy 70s board game theme, which is directly reflected in the artwork. A board game highway acts as a connecting thread throughout the series.

Beyond that, there is so much to be found within the confines of each three-feet-squared piece. In some, collage is married with Hildebrand’s dense layering of imaginative and quirky shapes, bursting with vibrant colour.

And the process is as imaginative as the end product. Hildebrand lines ten wood canvases up and creates multiple works at one time – she attributes this not only to a “short attention span”, but also an artist’s need to be prolific.

A literal splashing of acrylic paint is her first step.

“Then I’ll define some shapes and just keep piling paint on there until I reach a level of complexity where there’s enough happening there that I find it interesting,” she says.

To complete each piece, Hildebrand applies an oil glaze and “the colour just lights up.”

Before attending arts school in Nelson, B.C., she says she had the skills but was searching for her artistic voice. Now people congratulate her on finding a unique approach, one that Hildebrand says includes a lifetime of experience.

“Being at a point in my life where I’m happy and relaxed, everything else is coming back into the work like the nature and the ocean landscapes,” she says.

“I don’t reference any visual material, it all comes intuitively. Everywhere I travel, influences come. Things get banked up in your mind and eventually come out again.”

Quite simply, Hildebrand says she wants people to engage with her work and find their own connection in its layers.

PHOTO: MORGAN WHIBLEY [email protected]

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