In Memoriam: Liz Hill, The Smallest Giant

January 13, 2022 9:21 AM | Ksenia Annis (Administrator)

Petite, Liz Hill exerted an enormous presence. As an artist, her creativity was astonishing, her curiosity limitless, and her determination famous. A painting by Liz Hill was always quirky. Regardless of how long one studied it, some element surprised or astonished the observer. Was it a line that ended abruptly? Or wandered off casually. Colors skate across her boards. A misplaced patch of white? No, it is perfect…. 

One dear friend of Liz’s tried to recall how she was acquainted with Liz --  Liz was first a creative being,  second an artist, maybe a watercolorist, certainly a teacher and occasionally a terrorist. Another  recollected how Liz had something in her mind, in her hands, in her vision and heart that translated into unique visual experiences. “ It was often not  easy with Liz, one  way or the other, but we loved her, just the way she was.“

Naomi Rosborough wrote “Liz’s art is visually compelling - I cannot say was.  “I would study  her art and try to imagine how it came to be. I was filled with the mystery of her talent. When I remembered that she was a  designer for a large furniture company in Houston, it began to make sense  to me. Her  collages were environments- no matter if they were people,  pigeons or animals. She could not help but create complete worlds.“

Erika Just, living a continent away, departed Houston but carried with her an admiration for Liz’s arresting works.  “It is so sad that Liz passed away,” Erika can be heard saying in her own imitable way. Erika said “Liz Hill was one of the great artists of WAS-H in Houston. Her Paintings were special and were recognizable instantly as being hers. Her parting is a great loss to the art world of Houston, she will be missed terribly.”

Nothing could encapsulate Liz’s extraordinary  breadth of talent. No one could ever say it did not take long to know Liz, or recognize her distinctive style of paintings, her influence or to know about her. Her reputation far outran her, galloping through the polite aquarelle world of custom and manners.  In a painting mode famous for shy transparency and delicate luminosity, Liz painted like a kickboxer. She shoved paint. She tore paper and glued scraps. Figures and portraits emerged like prophets, some robed, some disrobed. She painted jewelry like rocks and walls like gossamer scarves.  Whatever was dense and opaque, Liz transformed into vague suggestions, lyrical melodies in paint, leaving the viewer stunned.

Dear friends knew Liz on multiple levels. Janna Macy, a longtime friend and teacher, tells the story that after Janna was recovering from a bad fall, Liz invited her for a walk in Houston’s Arboretum.  Janna was confident it would be a stroll through the woods, something rejuvenating more on a spiritual, metaphysical  level than a slow run through the forest, but Liz was the leader and pushed on, forward, leaving Janna behind. ‘Walk’ doesn’t adequately describe Janna’s surprise as Liz, diminutive Liz, led her granddaughter and Janna hurriedly down the path until they  arrived at the park’s center pavilion, Liz’s principal objective. It was not until  later that Janna realized Liz had been in pain throughout the exercise.  She  was being Liz  exerting and pushing forward,  regardless of her own discomfort.

Louise Bateman recalled being an assistant to Liz and how that translated into a real-world work experience, emphasis on work. Frequent encounters with rules brought Liz repeatedly to the attention of the WAS-H Board but her influence was undeniable. Entering the annual Teacher-Student Exhibition was always an object lesson in influence – a room full of Hill-ish paintings staggered against every wall. She terrorized her students until they adored her, imitated her and gouged out their own paint palettes, shredded paper and mixed media in deepest, sincerest emulation.

Another longtime friend and co-teacher, Carol Rensink, recalls “The relentless, bold and experimental, way Liz would build a painting always amazed me If her art was mountain climbing, she was always at the edge taking risks, but she usually arrived at her destination, with an interesting, well-designed painting.”

Thinking about her friend and colleague, Carol added, “I will miss my art friend immensely.  Liz taught me that making art is an adventure to be savored….and it guides how I choose to make art.“ Martha Carson also appreciated Liz for her sheer creativity. “Many people tried to capture her style in their own work and, of course, failed to do so“. Another artist recalled “Liz was often a light bulb. She could be dark, but when she turned on, she was brilliant. Her paintings were bright, even her darkest, most deep shades were interesting.” Josianne, one of Liz’s favorite models wrote the following, "Liz is a very inspirational woman. She saw so much beauty in me and always booked me to model. I admired her bold and zesty spirit. She is loved and missed by many. God bless you Liz Hill and thank you for being a friend to many."

Ardent admirers found Liz a mystery and a mess. Norm Wigington recounts the day he first encountered Liz at WAS-H. Midway through attending his first morning studio session, Liz accosted him, demanding to know what paints he used, where he bought his brushes and how he used charcoal, who was he and brusquely summarized his paintings as monumental, simultaneously indicating that was not necessarily flattery, just honest criticism. But it was a quick lesson he said. “Her own work was so outstanding, I trusted her taste implicitly,” he said.

Rosanne Friedman sent this: “Liz had a balance in her skills - ample talent for art, a keen understanding of people - that included a wit and humor in her wisdom, and then enough of a business acumen to follow though in selling her work. She fulfilled her talent, shared it in her exhibits, and her teaching with appreciation of others, and found a space for her work on collectors' walls.  Always generous, she donated a portrait to our temple fundraiser.  The art work was gathered at one point, and I demonstrated putting her work on a wall and taking it away - the wall was naked without the art work.  That room needed that piece.  It found a home there with the other colors and textures surrounding it, but it popped out.  That was Liz, she found a place among others but she always distinguished herself.  I'm so glad to have known her.  She saw things that others didn't on the surface and beneath it. I loved her.”

Read the following family's announcements here:

https://www.facebook.com/lizhillhome

The life and art of Liz Hill will be honored with a visitation and art display in the foyer of Fairfield Baptist Church on Sunday, January 16th from 2-4pm.  Fairfield Baptist Church is in Cypress, Texas, at 27240 Highway 290.  Guests are requested to enter through the double doors on the west side of the building under the tower with the cross.

Someone so gifted is our treasure forever. We will always remind ourselves great treasures can be found in small packages and Liz will always be present in our future art and creative efforts. Thanks, Liz. We miss you already.


Comments

  • January 14, 2022 8:51 AM | Carla Gauthier
    Beautiful tribute to one of the best! Her passing will create a void in our hearts and on the gallery walls, there will never be another one like Liz Hill.
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 15, 2022 8:53 AM | Martha Carson
    Liz was an experience, a dead eye shot in the perception of authentic art. She taught me much, but the best lesson was to trust myself.
    Then I could wear off my warts on paper. Thank you Liz, and thank you Norm for this top notch write up.
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 15, 2022 12:23 PM | WAS-H Admin Assistant (Administrator)
    Darla Bostick writes: I was introduced to Liz when she and 2 friends came to my Ghost Ranch workshop/retreat in 2015. Beneath her little fedora was a powerhouse! She was a dynamo and produced the most amazing artwork. On our final day we share to spotlight what each artist has created while there. Liz had so much work it didn't all fit on the easels and each one was a well-executed piece! It is hard to imagine a world without Liz's talent and insight. Her use of line, color and pattern are unique. She will be missed, truly. Thank you to WaSH for sharing her unique legacy.
    Darla Bostick
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 15, 2022 2:22 PM | Robin Avery
    It’s windy and chilly today. So while assembling my ingredients to make my chili
    I came across this email about Liz.
    It came to mind that Liz’s personality and approach to her art were much like the hearty ingredients in my chili recipe.
    Her personality was spicy, bold, sweet and very unique. Like a bowl of warm chili, she
    FLAVORED the room with her quips,
    Laughter and LIZIsms.
    Her talent to critique honestly was rare and much appreciated.
    Her paintings of women were magnificent as were her quirky birds!
    We will miss you Liz…a very SPECIAL
    Unique artist and Friend.
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 16, 2022 10:52 AM | Larry Spitzberg
    My sadness at liz’s passing overwhelms the memory of the joy i had at taking a collage class from this lovely dynamo.
    Link  •  Reply
  • January 16, 2022 12:25 PM | Erika Just
    Lizs Honesty was a rare quality of her character. She never flattered, and I think she couldn't do that and her judgment hit me sometimes with full force. I could always trust her comments hundred percent when she criticisd my Artwork. Yes, she was a very interesting Lady, and I am so blessed to got to know her.
    Link  •  Reply
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