While studying psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Janet Loren Hill took an interest in how psychology affects the ways in which we sense and understand art. “Even though we think we can name colors when we see them, most of what we’re seeing is a context that makes a color be perceived by us as a certain way,” she says. An apple’s color, for example, may seem to change from ruby red in a bright room to a deeper purple in low light—a shift in perception that has nothing to do with the apple itself, of course. After college, Hill earned an MFA in painting and textile making from MassArt in Boston, where she began creating multimedia pieces that challenge the viewer’s notions of subjectivity versus objectivity. In these pieces, she says, “I could start to speak to that unconscious conditioning that makes us who we are but in a visual way.”
Hill cites the post-Impressionist artists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac as inspirations, especially Seurat’s hand-painted frames that created optical illusions for his audiences. Both artists used small, painted dots of opposing hues to trick the eye into seeing a new, third color. Hill’s most recent series, Binocular Viewpoint Paintings, explores this concept through a fusion of woven textile and paintings. She hopes that these works will reveal the layers of social conditioning that influence our perceptions and underscore her conviction that each of us views art—to say nothing of the world around us—in a singular way. “This feels like the synthesis of what I’ve been itching at with a lot of different series,” she says.
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