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September 2013
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
Page 3   

Hilary Jacobsen . . . from page 1

Jacobsen, a new mother of a cherubic six-month old baby girl named Juniper, reflects on being drawn to paint as a very young child: “I think I was around six when I had my first lesson. I was encouraged and supported by my parents to explore my world through art.”  And that’s what she’s done ever since. “I entered the art program at the University of Utah to pursue a driving passion and had an amazing experience in every respect. Professors such as Sam Wilson, Maureen O’Hara Ure and John Erickson, inspired me to identify my own unique aesthetic while instilling a work ethic that has stayed with me and enabled me to remain focused and determined.” Jacobsen graduated with her BFA with an emphasis in painting and drawing in 2007 and upon graduation received the Ethel Armstrong Rolapp Award for her outstanding portfolio. Well aware that she has entered a field with rampant competition, Jacobsen maintains a sense of rational realism when it comes to her art. Fueled by an appetite and drive to create, she says, “Ultimately I create work for myself, I feel compelled to create, however, I’m incredibly flattered that people enjoy my work and realize it doesn’t speak to everyone.”

Kurt Vonnegut mused, “No art is possible without a dance with death.” At least for Jacobsen this rings true. Death is a subject that the artist has explored through her paintings, many of which include human skeletons and skulls in embrace. The symbolism of the finality of life is obvious yet the playfulness of the compositions and colors suggests a sense of humor and a connection to the subjects that seems to reveal an appreciation for the skeletal form, the remains of a human life. Jacobsen recalls a drawing class taught by Sam Wilson, who had arranged a variety of objects on a table and asked students to select one. Jacobsen was immediately drawn to a cavernous human skull replica, which she describes as “pirate-esque”—complete with missing teeth and protruding jaw. Thus began her fascination with skulls and skeletons. “The idea was to pick an object that we would continually draw from using different mediums. My exploration of the skull evolved to drawing on paper to charcoal to graphite to pastels, using different styles and mediums and it evolved organically and I never stopped.” This led Jacobsen to research the art historical importance of skulls, particularly in late medieval and early renaissance paintings such as Fra Angelico’s ‘Crucifixion.’ Jacobsen was intrigued by artists such as Fra Angelico and Andrea del Castagno’s positioning of the skull of Adam at the foot of the cross in their paintings. Tradition has it that Adam’s remains were buried at Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion. The rich symbolism may be interpreted as that of redemption and salvation of humanity. Although deeply inspired by these early masters and the embedded and often subtle symbolism that dominates their work, Jacobsen contends that, “My work has evolved naturally, I’ve kept a certain momentum and am drawn to and inspired by many types of art including modern art and folk-art.”

Reflecting on the beauty of the skeletal form,  Jacobsen says, “To me it was never morbid, I saw a certain loveliness that I aspired to display in a playful way.” Inspired by the colorfulness and festive nature of folk-art, particularly day-of-the-dead art, Jacobsen talks about embracing death as a true celebration of life. Her intention is not to make a joke of death but rather to express joy for a life lived.

There is a definite elegance in the craftwork of Jacobsen’s pieces, seen within the details of gold and bronze paint, textures of stitching and various layers that constitute the mixed media process. Process is essential for Jacobsen, a hands-on artist whose method often includes the use of jigsaw and scroll saws to precision cut shapes that offer added dimension to her pieces. Typically she will begin with un-stretched raw canvas onto which she draws. From there she may add pastels before applying actual paint. There is a layering that occurs that builds upon the original image and produces an effect that reveals subtle texture and pattern. The next step involves cutting the image and then sewing or using an adhesive to position it onto a stretched canvas. From here the application of paint continues and the works come to life. Typically Jacobsen stays away from the constraints of rectangular canvases, preferring to work with more obscure shapes that give her work a 3D feel. There is a sense of metaphor within this artistic choice, the idea of birds (mostly crows and ravens) taking flight, beyond the plane, in addition to the skulls and skeletons that dominate the work, suggesting the idea of movement from one plane of existence to another. “Breaking out of the picture plane is a definite conscious choice for me,” she says. 

Jacobsen has an exhibit of work currently on display at Fice, in downtown Salt Lake City. The exhibit includes a collection of twenty-seven pieces, including nine new ones created over the summer — an amazing feat considering Jacobsen, along with her husband, is caring for her infant daughter. “I’m connecting more to my new paintings right now, I think that’s natural for an artist, your perception changes and evolves based on your lived experiences, where you were six years ago may be very different to where you are now.” Jacobsen’s new work is an eclectic mix of 3D pieces that include both symbolic and anatomical hearts, pistols and scrolls with written phrases that exemplify a particular emotion. The show will be up until mid September. “I’m really happy with the work that I’ve done, especially the sawing process. I love the process I’m engaged in and want my finished work to reflect the fun that I feel when creating.” When asked about the direction she hopes to take with her art, Jacobsen laments that though she is ready for a change within her process, medium or subject, she’s not sure yet what it will be. We can be sure, however, that whatever direction she choses to take, she will do so with the passion, commitment and determination that constitutes her authentic self.

Organization Spotlight: Salt Lake City
A Fitting Legacy
Pilar Pobil's garden, house and legacy to continue

Salt Lake City artist Pilar Pobil was the subject of one of our earliest artist profiles, which appeared in the May 2002 edition of 15 Bytes. Even then the Mallorca, Spain native was an established fixture in the Utah art scene. Her colorful paintings, held together by a sinuous line, were already in most public and many private collections. Her Art in the Garden event, held annually in June and featuring the work of local artists in the unique setting of her garden, was and still is one of the highlights of the summer for local art lovers.

At 86 Pobil is still very active creating new works, and has no plans for an imminent departure, but a group of art enthusiasts who have come to love the unique setting of her home and the impact of her art have decided to get busy now to perpetuate her legacy.

Brent Cameron, a long-time friend, his sister Daryl Barrett, and Patrick Hoagland (of Patrick Moore Gallery) have been brainstorming for years of a way to keep the house as a local art treasure, but couldn't find the right solution. Pobil was passionate that the house serve the arts and the community. When Kate Duffy heard about the project, she suggested they incorporate as a non-profit. "Pilar is the reason I started painting again about 15 years ago," Duffy says. "Her work and her story, along with Pilar herself really inspired me to get back to my artist self." In March the group filed the paper work to incorporate as the Pilar Pobil Legacy Foundation, with plans to eventually buy Pobil's house from her estate. The artist has agreed to donate the contents of her home and all the artwork to the foundation.

"One of the objectives of the foundation is to continue the annual Art in Pilar’s Garden, provide educational programs in many arts genres for the public, and offer the home as an artist residence to visiting artists in exchange for workshops, performances and master classes," Duffy says. "Much of the programming will begin during her lifetime."

Indeed, in July the Pilar Pobil Legacy Foundation held its first event. On July 10-11, they invited sixty-five students from Guadalupe School to the house for an art workshop. The students took the work they began at the house back to their classrooms to finish. They will display the final pieces in Pilar's garden on Saturday, September 7, 4-6 pm, in an exhibit that will be attended by the students' family members and invited guests.

Two more events are planned in the coming month. On Thursday, September 12th, Pobil's daughter, Monica Pasqual, will give a concert to benefit the foundation. Best known to Salt Lake audiences as one of the quartet in the acclaimed Bay Area-based band Blame Sally, Pasqual will be performing with Pam Delgado (also of Blame Sally) and Josh McClain. Pasqual is the winner of 5 Independent Music Awards and Six Emmy Awards. She will also conduct a songwriter and creative writer workshop on Saturday, September 14th.

Finally, on October 4th, from 5-9 pm, the foundation will host My Burial Chamber: A Celebration of Life. The exhibit tells a visual story of Pobil's life through her "burial chamber." Originally presented in 2007 by the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, Pilar has chosen to resurrect the exhibit to close out the summer’s activities. In older cultures, when a person who during hers or his lifetime had done significant work that was worth preserving, all the objects that she or he had used would be collected in the Burial Chamber to provide the means to continue their work in the ever after. Also included would be images of loved ones as well as pets and other memories. Pilar’s exhibition will include photos, angels, a sewing machine, painted objects, cooking utensils and pots, paintings, fashion creations, embroidery and other items that she has considered central to her life. The music of Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess), with its slow rhythm and repetitive cadences, will provide the perfect background for the Chamber.

Funds raised during these events will be used to purchase the home and will be held in Trust until the sale takes place. Program funding will be utilized now to develop and execute programs that Pobil will have the opportunity to oversee.

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