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Los Angeles based artist, Alicia Piller envisions historical traumas, both political and environmental, through the lens of a microscope. Her sculptures and installations conceive of past atrocities, suffering, and accomplishments as biological forms–broken down to a cellular level. A variety of materials including vinyl, latex balloons, and photographs, are employed to examine the energy around wounds societies have inflicted upon themselves and others, but also give optimistic glimpses of a possible future with bright colors that show signs of life and proliferating forms that show signs of growth. Her subject matter is often informed by her studies in anthropology and her sculptural process by her time in fashion and craft making.
Alicia Piller received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in the spring of 2019.
Alicia Piller investigates place. She believes a city, a country, or a specific location can be seen as an object that can be held, explored, dissected and mended back together. “Tracing humanity’s roots has always been at the forefront of my interests,” states Piller. “Most recently, focusing on my own roots and the Americana in general.” Piller’s studio practice focuses on one place and dives deep into how the earth connects with humanity and how humans connect with the earth. Centering her investigations on history, Piller draws references from both the political and environmental traces of a city. When invited to have a solo exhibition at Craft Alliance, St. Louis became the catalyst for her work.
Piller has always been fascinated with fossils, minerals and botanicals. These earthly elements are where she begins her studies of a new place. Much like a hidden gem, St. Louis started to reveal herself to Piller; stories of how we interacted with the land began to unfold, and tales of struggles and resilience revealed themselves. In this exhibition, Piller leads us on a journey starting at the Cahokia Mounds, speaking to the impact this early civilization had on our history. Identifying native botanicals, fossils and land formations, Piller weaves this imagery into her multi-material sculptures.
Piller examines St. Louis race relations in relation to the natural landscape of the region. This juxtaposition is the root of her work. “This show is meant to get people to think about the intricacy of existence, to examine and discover the connectivity of the past to the present,” Piller explains. “Highlighting the St. Louis area chronologically through photographic imagery and other mixed media materials, I want the viewers to touch down on moments in time. Examining the inhabitants of a Missouri once covered by ocean, look back to ancient civilizations wiped out and forgotten; recognizing colonial invasion and its effects on society, while presenting a sense of resilience from an American city through tragedy and activism.”
Piller’s work brings us through the creation of Mound City, to the Dred Scott case, the St. Louis 1917 race riots, Delmar Divide, Mike Brown, and ends with hopeful voices of current activists. Her work moves us through the past and the present, reminding us that we are connected to the earth by paralleling history with native botanicals from the area. We are connected to each other and to the land. “This work is a moment of hope and growth, an explosion of positive energy and transformation. From each work, I want people to get a feeling of movement, a feeling of progression, a feeling of time expanding and moving. In this way, I want the works to feel like organisms shifting and changing, shedding their skin."