Sculpting an Artist’s Life

Arts and Entertainment, Lifestyles Magazine, September 2008

Once, when Richard Scott Hill was a child, he looked through a book of art that belonged to his neighbor, Evie Green, an artist.  He was fascinated, and studied the pictures very closely.  “Who made these?” he asked her of the paintings and sculptures depicted.  “Artists,” came the answer.  From that moment forth, Hill knew beyond a doubt what his calling in life would be.

Six decades later, Hill has parlayed that early ambition into a highly successful career as a renowned artist and sculptor.  Hill’s most recognizable creation, the Kessler Campanile of Georgia Tech, is a landmark of Atlanta.  Originally designed and constructed for the 1996 Olympic Games, it is best described as an 80-foot high twisted obelisk, comprised of 244 individual metal plates.  Words and photos cannot do it justice; it’s really only when viewing it in person that you can appreciate its innovation, as the grand scale and technology of its design give way to its beauty and gracefulness.  Nestled in the center of campus, it is a sculpture that quite appropriately marks the intersection of technology and art.

Although the Campanile is his most recognizable and perhaps most famous work, Hill’s oeuvre extends far beyond that one piece.  His work has been shown in dozens of galleries and exhibits, featured in public, private, and corporate collections and has received honors in numerous national competitions.  His photography has been shown alongside of the legendary Annie Liebovitz’s.  He’s even been officially commended by Georgia’s House of Representatives for his “outstanding artistic achievements” and “the beautiful and majestic” Campanile.

Hill is fluent and accomplished in just about any and all artistic genres—drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and most recently, digital art.  Furthermore, the pieces that he has created over the years can be vastly different from each other in materials—from Plexiglas to the bedrock of an African river—and vary widely in their forms and subject matter.  “Richard continues to surprise me with his versatility,” says Naomi Silva, owner of Naomi Silva Gallery in Atlanta. “Each new series is unique and extremely thought provoking.”

Likewise, the themes of Hill’s work range from playful to deeply spiritual, from erotic to symbolic, and from natural to artificial.  Many of his sculptures juxtapose the organic (i.e., natural materials, deliberately left unpolished and rough) with the refined and polished.  One of his “Portal” works, for example, looks like a smooth and thick wooden plate with a circular hole in the middle.  The edge on one side is ragged and uneven.  As Hill explains, “The circle is a symbol of God (the god of all religions, not of any one sect), and the round hole is a portal,” suggesting passage through from the earthly world (represented by the material, wood, and the sculpture’s unfinished edge) to the spiritual world (represented by the circular shape and the polished surfaces).  “The Portals are symbolic of the relationship between the earthly and the spiritual worlds, innately distinct but united in these works of art.”

This is but one example of how the apparent simplicity of Hill’s art belies the complexity of his creative impulse. As longtime collector James Baxter remarks, “There is a quality about his artwork that keeps it always fresh and hard-hitting no matter how long the piece has been owned.”

Hill’s current project involves the manipulation of digital images, some iconic or familiar, such as figures from a Vermeer painting or the faces of kings and queens from a deck of cards. Hill’s embrace of digital technology continues to impress as his alterations and juxtapositions of old and new images challenge viewers’ preconceptions about art.  “Richard has adapted beautifully to the influence of the rapidly changing technology available to artists to assist them in their creative process,” remarks Silva.  “Whether he is painting, sculpting, experimenting with photography, or creating incredible fantasies in the digital area of computers, I find that his insights into the mysteries of the world both visually exciting and intellectually stimulating.”

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