Luzene Hill is a multi-media artist, best known for conceptual installations addressing the issue of violence against women. Her work reflects interdisciplinary scholarship in visual art, women’s studies, Native American culture – topics that are integral to her background and personal journey. Through work informed by Pre-Contact culture Hill advocates for indigenous sovereignty – linguistic, cultural and personal sovereignty. These concepts form the basis for her installations, performance, drawings and artist’s books. An enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Hill lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. Her awards include the 2016 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship in Visual Arts, the 2015 Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship and 2015 First Peoples Fund Fellowship. Hill’s work is featured in Susan Powers’ book, “Cherokee Art: Prehistory to Present” and in Josh McPhee’s book, “Celebrate People’s History!: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution”.
In recent drawings and installations I addressed the issue of violence toward women in an abstract and personally detached way. Retracing the Trace marked a shift in my approach to making work about this issue. Each aspect of this work reflected my identity and involvement, from making the body imprint to removing the last cord from the floor and attaching it to the wall. The gallery was a metaphor for my body, as I drew attention to the number of sexual assaults that go unreported, and renounced the traces of my own trauma.
As a Native American woman I often reference Pre-Conquest culture in my work. The khipuwas pertinent to this work, as a device made from cords, and as an endangered Native American language. I metaphorically connected the silencing I experienced when I was raped to the silencing of Native American culture and voices.
My personal journey involves having been sexually assaulted when I was jogging in a city park twenty-two years ago. I had the benefit of therapy for several years and processed that trauma, considering it a private, personal issue. I never intended to address that topic in my art. I began working seriously on art in 1996 and after a few years was confronted with the realization that the trauma came through in my drawings and paintings. I slowly began to claim that work, then eventually exhibited it, in a tentative way. In 2009 I was invited to make an installation on the subject of human rights. Inspired by Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Ruined”, I created “ . . . the body and blood”, which addressed sexual assault within a global context and from an abstract point of view. The response to that work was intense and showed me that personally identifying with the work was important. Also, when I was researching statistics for that work I was shocked to learn about issues surrounding assaults on Native women. From that knowledge and experience I created “Retracing the Trace”. In all my installations I aim to present a contemplative, quiet space in contrast to the chaotic violence that characterizes sexual assault.
I recently was awarded a Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and am currently developing new work that continues my exploration of violence against women. My goal is to continue to draw attention to the inordinate proportion of assaults on Native women and the profound silencethat overlays this issue. My website www.luzenehill.com has images of my installation, “Retracing the Trace”, which is currently on exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.