Deborah Hillman

Although I was drawn to art as a child and thought I would follow that path, my lifelong love of exploring the varied and intricate realms of consciousness has taken form in many different ways. I trained as a cultural anthropologist, and after completing my doctorate, worked as both an ethnographer and a culturally oriented therapist. From 1971 to 2002 I lived in New York City, then migrated north to Montpelier, Vermont, to focus more fully on art. That was my first experience as part of a larger art community, and during that time I evolved an approach I call “art of the inner world.”

Thirteen years later I felt a call to return to urban life, and happily landed in walking distance of beautiful Wave Hill. I set up a studio inside my apartment and scale my artwork to fit. I’ve worked with oil, acrylic, collage, mixed media, and wire (for mobile-making), and feel a special affinity for works on paper. I make a point of choosing non-toxic materials to use in my studio, and I value the playful, as well as the meditative, aspects of making art. Anthropological themes occasionally find their way into my work, as do images that stem from my own experience of synesthesia. I see, for example, letters, numbers, words, and names in color, and sound appears as shape, color, texture, and/or movement. Dreams are also a source of inspiration for my art, as are the elegant lines and delicate markings found in nature. I take delight in the miniature “paintings” discovered among my beach stones, the sensuous curve of a honey locust pod.

I currently work as a coach and advocate for people living with dementia, which challenges me to consider more deeply the link between art and healing. Indeed, in a world that’s fraught with pressing problems of all kinds, art is a force for restoring a sense of wonder, joy, and wholeness.