Thursday, May 4, 2017

Alison Hiltner, Artist and Associate Director at SooVAC

Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the seventh interview on my art blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed Alison Hiltner. She is an amazing artist and is also Associate Director at Soo Visual Arts Center. She is really smart and I have known her since I was little. 

Jackson: How did you create all the green stuff for your exhibition at Mia? It was amazing.

AlisonGreat question Jackson and thank you! I have been cultivating cyanobacteria, a primitive form of algae going on two years now. The cyanobacteria that is in the show is not from the original cultures however, that has been growing for about 6 months. The lab in the back of the gallery is a tiny snippet of the process. Aquariums, lots of filtered water, cultures, pumps, bubblers and time is really all it takes:)

I was interested with working with cyanobacteria for a number of reasons; it’s prominence in scientific investigations, the role it played in creating the atmosphere we breathe  and for aesthetic considerations, the green is so vibrant it seems to be the definition of plant-life, the color a child would select from a box of crayons to color in leaves. I was drawn to algae for a variety of different reasons, and to quickly clarify, it is actually cyanobacteria a primitive form of algae. Cyanobacteria was instrumental in forging the earth’s atmosphere from the very beginning of the evolution of life. It also holds a very complex place in our rapidly altering climate, both as a resource to course-correct as well as a force for ecological destruction. I see this as a concise connection to how humans interact within our environment. On a more basic level, it appealed to me as something that registered as an organic life form, it’s intense shade of green feels like the defining color of a plant, but on an intensely primitive level. It forges a difficult, but meaningful, connection between the viewer and the cyanobacteria to push viewers to connect with a life-form that seems void of life, yet critically essential to our ecosystem.

JacksonWhat kind of art do you most like to look at?

AlisonAll kinds! Along with being a practicing artists I have the pleasure of working at Soo Visual Arts Center as the Associate Director, and that enables me to experience a wide variety of work. We have a lot of amazing artists in the Twin Cities and I have had the gift of working with a lot of them. 

Though I especially enjoy art that challenges expectations, something that demands me to even if momentarily look at the world differently.  

JacksonIf you could meet and speak to any artist, who would it be? I was excited to meet Sharon Louden.

AlisonLouise Bourgeois. Though I’m not sure if I would have the ability to speak if I was standing in front of her. 


  1. Wow, good interview ! It is so special to have an artist delve into science while creating a well thought out project. Reminds me that middle schoolers need STEAM, not just STEM in their education. And Louise ! Allisons favorite artist ..well, just wow. interconnectedness, architecture and sculpture all in one. Love her thinking of inter connectivity. As an artist, it's how we think.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Suzi. Jackson really appreciates it and I agree with everything you said.