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Oil paintings from my 'Childhood Mythologies' series are the most recent images uploaded for me by WebMaster Elena Kibraeva. The original paintings were 4' x 5', but prints are available in the sizes listed on F.A.A. Featured is a narrative quartet: Tugboat Ram, Tugboat Slam, Tugboat Whirl, Crab Rescue.
One winter my husband Will (who later became Director of Exhibitions at Maryland Institute College of Art) and I stayed at Mr. Mole, a bed and breakfast named after the character in Kenneth Grahame’s children’s book The Wind in the Willows. Our room called “Mole End” was a step into childhood. It was cozy and enchanting, filled with curious objects, antiques, and wonderful books. A stuffed, larger-than-life-sized Mr. Mole, wearing a red and white striped nightcap, dark velvet robe and felt slippers, sat at the foot of the canopy bed. His friends, Mr. Rat and the mischievous rascal Mr. Toad, peered down at us from the shelves. At night we read aloud from The Wind in the Willows, relishing the innocence and wonder we thought we had left behind so long ago.
That was my introduction to Baltimore. That memory of childhood revisited stayed with me during the 6 years we lived in Baltimore and served as a springboard for my series of paintings Childhood Mythologies.
A concept we learn as children from the best children’s books and through our gradual experience is that reality is filled with dualities----good and bad, pleasure and pain, safety and danger.
A portion of my childhood was spent in Germany in the 1960’s. It was a land of fairy tales and gingerbread houses, but also the land of concentration camp atrocities and bombed-out buildings. As a child, I felt the dichotomy of that environment.
Paintings from the Childhood Mythologies series deal with the concept of life’s dualities, using the vocabulary of children’s imagery (comic books, animation and children’s book illustrations).
My watercolors with translucent color and delicate appearance suggest ephemeral innocence and idealism. These idyllic scenes depict a childhood that is sweet and safe. A child is at play in nature, communing with animals as friends, surrounded by toys and calming waters.
These intimate and subtle images are juxtaposed with large opaque, bold, intensely colored oil paintings imparting the angst that comes with developmental awareness and experience. The oils are startling blow-ups of the original images. Disturbing the composition, altering the center of focus, zooming in, cropping and tilting the previous serene utopia imply that things are not quite right. Vulnerability exists. The future hints of danger and chaos. A curious mouse becomes a menacing rat, a playful tugboat becomes a foreboding force. These last oil panels came of their own momentum; a natural progression from danger implied to danger realized.
Crucial to communicating my ideas and beliefs is to use a visual vocabulary that is appropriate to the concept. For example, the visual language used in Childhood Mythologies differs greatly from that used in my dark monochromatic Scene of the Crime series.
Working in series gives me the opportunity to fully explore an idea. In the process I’m constantly asking questions and finding answers. After time spent researching the subject of violence (and, later, mystery), I welcomed a challenge from the other side of the spectrum---childhood and innocence---however fleeting
As a military “brat”, Irene Liotis Hipps lived and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, spending her elementary school years in Germany. When her 2nd grade class was taken to the opera 'Hansel & Gretel', the world of fantasy and fairy tales began. Childhood fantasy remains a strong influence in Irene’s paintings, especially in these early watercolors.
Trained foremost as a visual artist, Irene's early academic background also included minors in theatre at St. Benedict's College and completion of a B.S. in Broadcast Media at Kent State University. Moving to San Francisco, Irene began painting the 'Childhood Fantasies' series of watercolors and in 1985 Irene Liotis met her husband, noted artist, entrepreneur, art museum and gallery director and curator, Will Hipps.
Irene earned a B.F.A. with Distinction in Painting and Drawing from California College of Arts & Crafts (now CAA), San Francisco, and an M.F.A in Art from California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles. Irene was a competition award recipient of CCAC’s Alliance of Independent Colleges of Art New York Studio Program. She spent a semester painting in AICA’s Tribeca Studio and visited the studios of such artists as Nancy Spero, Donald Lipski, Peter Plagens and John Yau. At that time her large scale drawings and oil paintings were highly figurative and some were very expressionist. Upon graduation in 1988 Irene taught and exhibited in Northern California, living in San Francisco’s North Beach District.
After experiencing the tradition of San Francisco Bay Area expressionism, Irene felt the need to fulfill the intellectual and conceptual challenges held by California Institute of the Arts. Upon acceptance into CalArts’ graduate program, Irene Hipps moved to Los Angeles.
Completing her M.F.A. in Art in 1990, Irene accepted a job at the J. Paul Getty Center for the History of Art & the Humanities and worked in monograph and periodical collection maintenance. She especially enjoyed having a first look at newly acquired handcrafted artists’ books while processing the Getty’s collection.
Irene Liotis Hipps exhibited throughout Los Angeles and Southern California while maintaining a studio overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Angels Gate Cultural Center for the Visual & Performing Arts. She taught painting and drawing there and served as Acting Assistant Director in 1989 and 1993-94. After experiencing the fires, the floods, the earthquakes and the racial uprising of Los Angeles, Irene left to spend a year in the tiny Northern California town of Bolinas, surrounded by a secluded lagoon, blue herons, egrets and the beauty of Coastal Marin. In 1994 she returned to San Francisco where she completed an enigmatic series of paintings entitled Mysteries.
Irene Liotis Hipps is best known for her large scale Scene of the Crime paintings, begun in Los Angeles in 1990 and informed by the continual increase of violence in our culture. These paintings are also influenced by Irene's media background and secondary knowledge of her uncle (by marriage), New York mafia boss, Vince (the Chin) Gigante.
The series was first shown on the east coast in Baltimore’s citywide arts festival Artscape: The Millennium Minus One. Seen by regional curators, Liotis HIpps was invited to exhibit the series elsewhere, most notably in the Delaware Museum’s Biennial 2000: Art in the New Millennium. When Irene moved to Baltimore, she continued to work on two distinctly different bodies of work, Scene of the Crime and Childhood Mythologies.
Unlike the dark adult world of the Scene of the Crime paintings, the Childhood Mythologies series is an examination of universal childhood feelings and imaginings, transforming the visual language of children’s book illustration, comics or animation into large (4’ x 5’), bright, colorful oil paintings. Irene was chosen by “The Maryland Poetry Review” to have images published from Childhood Mythologies, appropriately placed amidst poems about childhood by various contemporary poets. Several Childhood Mythology paintings are in the collection of Schiavone Fine Arts in Balitmore.
Irene Liotis Hipps now lives in Bluffton, on the May River, near Hilton Head, SC and Savannah, GA. She looks forward to creating paintings that will reflect the uniqueness of her Southern experience.