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Lilliana Hoag: Splintered Sight

Artist exhibition at USF student center

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Photographers tend to be obsessed with dichotomies. This must stem from the inherent opposition used in every image, as the photographer thinks back and forth, adjusting lighting and placement, black and white, in and out of focus. Lilliana Hoag seems to revel in these dichotomies, and molds them to her favor both formally and conceptually. Though still a student (senior at University of Saint Francis), Hoag's work transcends this description. The confidence of her imagery belies the shy, unassuming persona she holds. Hoag is an extremely talented photographer, and definitely a local artist to watch over the next few years. Her exhibition "Process" is currently on view at the University of Saint Francis' Student Center.

Born in Anaheim California, down the street from Disney Land, and growing up in San Bernardino, California, Hoag moved to Clay City, Indiana around the age of 13. Being that Clay City is a small space between Terra Haute and Bloomington, where art is more about craft than content, her move to Fort Wayne and enrollment in college was eye-opening and sparked her inspiration for art.

This inspiration includes the photography of both David Hockney and David Hilliard; cubism as a concept (she states that specific artists aren't of interest); and her current photography professor, Cara Wade. The evidence of inspiration from Hockney and Hilliard's work is particularly seen in Hoag's joiner work, which is the core of her exhibition. While both Hockney and Hilliard use the photographic method of "collaging" images together creating a fractured space, they use the technique separately and distinctly, as does Hoag. In Hockney's work, the landscape and figure are broken by each photographic plane. Hockney's landscapes are reminiscent of impressionistic brushstrokes. Hockney's figures are reminiscent of very early cubism, in that "not Cezanne, but not quite Braque" style of showing all sides of an object bluntly. In contrast, Hilliard's joiners are tranquil explorations of depth and narrative, using the technique to spice things up a bit as the viewer crosses from photographic planes. Hoag's work, a chimera of these two great artists, playfully explores four-dimensional space the way high cubism does, and uses this highly fractured space to reveal her subjects, which are clearly psychological characters controlling and dictating their space, not being controlled by the joiner format.

In pieces like "The Progeny" and "The Patriot," this combinatory use of both cubistic fracturing and dramatic depth of field produce a kind of temporally static image, flickering with life, but only when activated by the viewer. In "The Progeny," this takes the form of a multi-legged, two headed, in and out of proportioned pensive character, with space both imploding, multiplying and bursting forth along his figure. "The Peacock" is the most subtle, with a facetted main character whose additional hand is hanging up clothing. In these pieces, Hoag is describing the subject to the viewer, but also taking account of how she feels the viewer would naturally discriminate the image, and this anticipation allows her to create beguiling images which court the viewer. Finally, in "The Patriot," and "The Predecessor," Hoag represents her now deceased father in multi-faceted psychological portraits in front of vibrant backgrounds, which are so impeccably arranged that they create vortices which the viewer is caught in. The emotive nature of Hoag's photographic process comes out in these two pieces perfectly, as her natural understanding of her subject is so articulated that her process produces an effervescent "likeness" of the subject's assumed personality and indwelt distinction.

This new way of looking and seeing is supported by Hoag's artist statement, which, wise beyond its years, describes a naive Hegelian Dialectic process which is used to propel the viewer into the images with a certain notion. This attraction to contradiction has forced Hoag to master composition. In her case, composition not only guides the eye in a formalistic way, but also guides the viewers mind as they are examining this hyperbolic version of a person that is being both hidden and exposed simultaneously through Hoag's lens. "When I want the viewer to take away an idea from a piece I usually make the opposite idea the most prevalent. I mask my true idea within it's opposite; forcing the viewer to become more intimate with the piece to fully understand it," Hoag states.

And this drawing in is not only an action for the viewer, but Hoag as well. Further in her statement, Hoag notes, "My use of analog photography and alternative processes brings me closer to each photograph. Every frame is meticulously planned before every frame is physical, precious, and permanent." In Hoag's "Burma" series, she astutely stays away from documenting her subjects, but describes their cultural isolation through the use of mordancage, a technique which Cara Wade brought to Northeast Indiana, where the photographer lifts the emulsion of a photograph to produce grayscale veils and bleached areas. This elegant response to these people's current state brings a palpable sensitivity. Hoag's all-consuming method of creation leads the viewer, but really only so far. Her exploration of her subjects prior to taking photographs is also limited. Hoag's creativity when the film is exposed, and the darkroom begins, is where the magic of her work resides. In taking the tangible pieces, like each joined image, and turning those pieces into something of beauty, Hoag reveals the mysteries of her subjects to herself and the world.

With only four years of photography under Lilliana Hoag's belt, she has developed an ingrained sensitivity to both concept and image production. Through these images, Hoag creates a world of characters which are both hyper-realistic and formulated. Because they are the raw versions of Hoag's conceptions of real people, the viewer empathizes and gets caught in their web at once, circling through the image and the possible thoughts in their heads. This unique form a fine photography will keep Hoag busy for quite sometime.

For more information:
University of Saint Francis Student Center (behind Bass Mansion and Trinity Hall)
Current - March 31st.

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