Arbor Art

Artist Jill Lear branches out in new gallery show.

 Jill Lear has traveled the world in pursuit of her subjects, celebrating the beauty and tranquility of nature through watercolors, paintings, sketches and wall installations. She brings her work to Austin this month with an exhibition at Gallery Shoal Creek.

“This is a different kind of exhibit,” Lear says. “It’s a mix of all the different ways I see the world.”

Gallery owner Judith Taylor was first in contact with Lear a few years ago when she was actively looking to feature an artist who worked mainly on paper. Since then, Lear has presented multiple exhibits at the gallery, and they have been very well received.

“She approaches structure and form so differently. Most others will get a compositional pattern that they’re comfortable with; they use color much more to make their statement. And it’s just her structure that fascinates me, whether she’s working large or small,” Taylor says.

Lear’s journey as an artist is a truly interesting one. She first studied medieval literature and fashion design in France before finding her true calling at the New York Art Studio. Lear travelled to Orcas Island, WA, after finishing school, where she discovered her love of trees and a desire to capture them in her work. She sees trees as “survivors through the ages.”

“When I saw her trees, it was just such a nice mix of reference to the landscape but very contemporary, so I was quite intrigued with them,” Taylor says.

In this particular exhibition, Lear presents a collection of work in paint, drawing and photography. She paints and draws the trees not as they look outright, but in a more abstract way that captures something deeper.

“The paintings are a more immediate response to what it feels like to be in that space. And then the drawings are more methodical and more recording of the particulars of it,” she says. “The photographs, I think, are the inspiration for all of it. They sort of record the inspiration.”

Lear credits her schooling for giving her a strong work ethic, but she says it is her stepfather, actor Adam West, who inspires her to think outside the box.

“He is an amazing painter in his own right, but he is the opposite of me; he’s super spontaneous. He just sits down and grabs whatever and creates these magical, crazy, weird things, so that inspires me to be more spontaneous and open.”

Although she doesn’t live in Austin, Lear is very much involved with local environmental organizations. She has supported the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a number of years. She donates work to the center’s auction every year and spends a great deal of time on the grounds when she is in town. While she was in Austin for the opening of this exhibition, she got involved with Pease Park Conservatory.

This month’s exhibition also features the work of Katie Maratta, whose “horizonscapes” offer a great contrast yet complement to Lear’s pieces. Maratta’s graphite-and-ink sketches stand only an inch tall, but some are up to four feet wide.

“[Jill] and Katie have admired each other’s work for some time and they were interested in pairing up for a show,” Taylor says. “I like for people to go up to the work and come to their own conclusions about it and not be told exactly what it’s about,” Lear says.

“I hope that they will take away something that is their own from each piece.”

The exhibition runs through Feb. 16. Visit Gallery Shoal Creek for more information.