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Eleanor Hubbard: Just One Look

The artist explores animals—including an adopted ox—and landscapes through her relationship with color

by David Graver in Culture on 30 January 2014

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Opening this Saturday, 1 February 2014, at NYC's Walter Wickiser Gallery artist Eleanor Hubbard will be showcasing bright, beautiful works—with one of the main inspirations behind the pieces being the adoption of a homeless ox. The show, "Just One Look" features a 3D installation dubbed "Pyramid of the Miraculous Ox" which contains close to 200 independent images pinned to one wall. In addition, drawings, watercolors and other paintings will complete the colorful solo exhibition.

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Hubbard (who is a celebrated artist both internationally and at home in the US) has a background that is as illustrious as her art; with time spent studying Norwegian language and art (with specialization in the work of Edvard Munch) at the University of Oslo, a Ford Foundation Fellow in Medieval Studies at Cornell University, and a myriad other academic and artistic accolades. She almost wasn't an artist, though: "During my freshman year in college the art teacher ripped up all of my drawings in front of the entire class at mid-semester and said, 'Find another major.'" Hubbard didn't draw or paint for seven years, instead investing her time in scholarly pursuits. It was famed composer John Cage, a teacher of Hubbard's in grad school who steered her back. Since, she has twice been artist-in-residence for the US Department of State. Of all things, however, it was an advertisement in her local paper, the Martha's Vineyard Times, that lead to "Just One Look."

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"Urgent: Ox Needs Home" read a post in the publication's classifieds. Moved by the accompanying photo, Hubbard called the listed number expecting to be one of many. She was the only one. Frantic that she couldn't actually house the animal, Hubbard reached out to a friend who had just bought a 100-acre farm in the Berkshires. Her friend took the ox and soon Hubbard came to visit. "I went to the Berkshires and saw him for the first time and thought, 'This is an incredible model.' That's his career now: He's an artist model. Since spring of 2009, when he started holding court, I started painting him. Both literal and abstract."

"Color sings to the form," she says, explaining to CH why an ox makes for her ideal subject. "If I am in 'the zone,' it's like having perfect pitch—the colors dictate. It wasn't something I was always aware of at the time, but my colors are clearly very much a response to my environment and, at base, to my unapologetic optimism," she continued. "This artist's palette is not heavy on gray." Optimism and surprise burst forth from her ox model. EleanorHubbard-05.jpg

In the spring before last, Hubbard was at the American Academy of Rome. There, she compiled her vast work pertaining to the ox and realized she wanted to present them together, as one unified assembling. Walter Wickiser, an affiliate gallery with Artsy, was quick to offer her the opportunity upon recommendation from one of the site's advisors—David Cleveland, father of Artsy founder Carter Cleveland. Supporting the presentation, a menagerie wall will feature cats, insects and more, each with their own inspired story. It's ultimately rounded out with landscapes; the largest being a 4x5 ft work entitled "The Seventh Seal." All the works are expressions of thought and serenity. As Hubbard describes, the opening is "a showing of all of my themes and all that I am obsessed with."

The artist describes her ability to communicate as speaking through color. For her, it draws the line between reality and imagination. "I'm incredibly slow in life, incredibly fast in painting." Her colors are always mixed and she "paint[s] according to intensity, tone, heaviness and light—always balancing." There's a gentle and easy beauty to her work, that's quietly inspiring. For Hubbard, her uplifting subjects carry vast importance: "The paintings do a great deal of the work in making themselves—I give them a start, a nudge, but with the right materials, they're off and running. Then I come back in with another nudge. It's very much a dance I do with my work."

"Just One Look" begins Saturday, 1 February and will run until 26 February 2014 at Walter Wickiser Gallery, 210 11th Avenue #303, New York.

Images courtesy of Eleanor Hubbard

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