WET PAINT – Meet Jen Hill: 2Hills
Welcome back to the second edition of the CLT is Creative series, ‘Wet Paint’ – A look inside Charlotte’s booming public art scene.
When we left off, local muralist, Matt Moore was talking about how reluctant he was to discuss the booming art scene; he didn’t want to jinx it…and therein lies the irony.
Less than a month after recording that interview, a global health crisis and a mandatory stay at home order threw all industries across Charlotte and the world into uncertainty, the arts included. I suppose Matt was right to be cautious…
Regardless of that new normal, we soldier on; as I’ve read ad nauseam, it’s times like these that creatives seem to truly shine. Apparently, Newton and Shakespeare produced some of their best works during their forced isolation during the plague.
To get the story on Charlotte’s current artistic landscape, we sat down with one of Crown Town’s most badass artists’ Jen Hill AKA @2hills.
While Jen says she’s from the small town of Kernersville NC, I’d rather say, she’s just from North Carolina. She first lived in Kernersville, then moved to Greenville for 6 years to attain a fine arts degree, then Raleigh for an extended stint of corporate life and then — in a moment of clarity almost 10 years ago — Jen abruptly moved to Charlotte to begin an adventure of a lifetime. Our interview starts with a look back to the fall of 2011.
CLTGraffiti: Why Art?
2Hills: Well first, I’m good at It and it just feels right. But secondly, corporate life was miserable for me. I was living in Raleigh, overweight, unhappy and living a life that I thought I was supposed to live. Then, one day, I had a jolt. I called off a wedding and ran away to Charlotte. I found my way back to art through bartending and doing chalk art for local restaurants. I always signed my art and slowly I got more and more requests to do local restaurant signs, menus, logos. As I’ve developed, I’ve been able to shift out of the chalk game and into murals and more unique artist ventures. I haven’t looked back since.
CLTGraffiti: How do you break out of a creative/artistic rut or block?
2Hills: You’re gonna’ laugh, but I love to turn on some rap music or some really synthy 80s techno style music and have a dance party and get the wiggles out.
Also, stepping away from work for clients to work on something I’ve been wanting to work on helps immensely. It took me awhile to understand that I’ve got to make time to work on my own projects or I’ll go crazy.
CLTGraffiti: Do you try to convey specific messages or meanings with your art?
2Hills: I go more towards my aesthetic versus trying to convey any specific message. I try to let the piece speak for itself. It’s normally just bright-colored-girly-obnoxious-in-your-face style. Like for the pin-up style art I create its more of an effort to take back the narrative, so it’s not just some overly sexed image, but more about how beautiful women are how they want to show off. The art is simply meant to be beautiful, bright and bold.
CLTGraffiti: We feature a lot of illegal graffiti art on our page, I’m curious to get the muralist perspective of the local writers of Charlotte, what are your thoughts of them?
2Hills: I think all the local graff writers are rad. I wish I had the courage to go out and do it here and there. I think what they do is hard, because they’re trying to get it out, in the dark, they’re trying to make it cool, they’re trying to do it quick to not get arrested.
And I’ve come to appreciate that side of art so much that I enjoy getting stuck at train crossings now because I get to watch all the art go by. The railyards are our modern-day Sistine Chapel. I feel like the writers are the reason we are getting to do what we do now so I’m super appreciative of their work.
CLTGraffiti: Tell me about that awesome piece you did for battle walls with the woman drowning.
2Hills: So, I saw that originally as a photo on Instagram in 2012, and I screenshotted it on my phone and for years this image just kept popping up on my phone and I kept screenshotting it. So I’d show people this image to both guys and girls and everyone always though it was so sexual. But I didn’t see that way. So I wanted to play on that image of it but add my flair to it and kind of turn it into a portrait of my self as a representation of me drowning in my own art, or drowning in my creativity, or purpose. I guess I try to take these images that are super sexy, and still let them be sexy but put my own twist on it.
CLTGraffiti: If you had to choose, what’s your favorite murals in Charlotte?
2Hills: Oh man, I can’t just give you one. Pretty much anything Twokat (@B_twokat) puts out I love, his color pallet and his creativity, I’m obsessed with it. I also love everything Hnin (@thepostfeels), and Cheeks (@CLT.Cheeks) do, they are both absolutely amazing artists. Also, there’s a piece uptown by Haymaker by Randall Kane that I love. Also the piece they tore down in South End by Carlleena Person, that was also a favorite. Knowing that she passed away in 2012, I was shocked when they tore that down.
CLTGraffiti: Let’s talk about the local art scene; what are your thoughts, especially in the context of the global health crisis?
2Hills: I think as an artist and the nature of our business, we are pretty used to the uncertainty of where work comes from. Considering the pandemic, I don’t feel like artists are super freaked out yet. Bree Stallings is a local artist and she recently posted about how its times like these that artists rise to the occasion; because what we create and put out helps soothe people, and it helps people remember there is a silver lining and that things will get better. Just like Darien’s (@daflemingo) ‘Purre’ll Gold’ that ended up getting featured in the NYT. It gave people a reason to crack a smile and sometimes that just what you need, and hats off to him, that dude put his intention out there and he’s blowing up!!
CLTGraffiti: What’s one thing you wish people knew about you regarding your art?
2Hills: I’m obsessed with glitter, I want to incorporate glitter on a giant mural one day. But, more as a blanket statement I’ve figured out over the past few years that vulnerability is a very strong attribute.
Too often in the art world — as a female artist — you almost feel like you’ve gotta be rough and tough and one of the guys. But, the older I get, I realize how important vulnerability is, especially for other women artists. To know that my glitter, my neons and my girly stuff is appreciated and is necessary is important; and it takes strength to show that side of me.
I want people to know they don’t need to be a hard ass. You don’t need to play this game and act cool all the time. I’m excited to be here, I’m also nervous about showing my work too, and I don’t care who knows it. You don’t have to play games, you just gotta make rad art, believe in it, and get it out there.
CLTGraffiti: What Charlotte artist do you think we need to interview next?
2Hills: Hands down, @twokat.
Consider it done, 2Hills!! Tune in next time, when we sit down with Brett Toukatly and get his take on this booming Charlotte Art scene.
Paint a Bigger Picture
Matt Morrison/@CLTGraffiti: INSTAGRAM
Jen Hill: INSTAGRAM
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