Faculty show features works theme of conservation, ecology

Release Date: February 26, 2008

PLAINVIEW – Mark Hilliard’s career as an assistant professor of art at Wayland Baptist University is a far cry from his previous life as a farmer, but the themes of his earlier work weave their way into his own artistic expression.

Thus his faculty art show titled “Words on Dirt,” on exhibit in the Abraham Art Gallery from Thursday, Feb. 28 through March 14, is a collection of ceramics and written text that explores themes of the exploitation of natural resources, labor, human dignity and the environment – all of which he knew personally through the agricultural field.

A native of Hale County who graduated from Plainview High School in 1981, Hilliard earned his bachelor’s degree in ceramics from McMurry University in 1986. After college, though, Hilliard returned to the land to farm, eventually hanging up his plow in 2001. He then pursued two master’s degrees in ceramics, earning the Master of Arts degree from West Texas A&M in 2003 and a Master of Fine Arts from Texas Tech in 2006.

He joined the WBU faculty in 2002 first as an adjunct, then full-time.

“Mark is our most recent full-time faculty addition to the art department, and much of the body of work presented in this exhibit which was developed during his master’s study,” said Dr. Candace Keller, professor of art and gallery curator. He has continued to create work expanding on the concepts of his experience with land management and eco-ethics.

“Mark has always ‘considered the clay’ but now rather than considering what to plant in it, he uses the clay as the medium through which he expresses his ideas. Using combinations of traditional thrown pottery, extrusions and mold forms he has communicated his opinions on farming industrialization in a unique and thought-provoking manner.”

Hilliard said his show combines his own experiences with farming and the thoughts of others such as Henry David Thoreau, Hugh Hammond Bennet and Upton Sinclair, aiming at making audiences think about the value of land.

“My purpose is to discover the root ailments of society which I have come to believe reside in our disconnected relationship to our native soil,” Hilliard said. “I do not claim to have the answers to our farm policy. I just have the willingness to ask the big question; ‘Why are we doing it this way; is this really necessary?’”

A reception for Hilliard to coincide with the show opening will be held Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. in the gallery. Refreshments will be served.

The gallery is free and open to the public during regular hours: 10-5 Monday through Thursday, 10-4 Friday and 2-5 Saturday. For more information, contact the gallery at (806) 291-3710.