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Hollis Hildebrand-Mills: The end

Artist gets ready for the apocalypse, at Callenwolde

A woman of few words, artist Hollis Hildebrand-Mills admits that "I think the world's a scary place right now." That fear factor is front and center in her paintings of rivers of lava, explosions, fires and spewing volcanoes that are Hildebrand-Mills' way of dramatizing a general zeitgeisty cultural panic.

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In "Cherry Bomb," a volcano ejaculates lava onto an innocent pink village, and in "E.P.I.C.," a ghostly plane hovers above a metropolis consumed by flames and smoke. Though the artist says she's more interested in a general idea of disaster than a specific hullabaloo, she also says people tend to assume the plane, the skyscrapers and the flames reference 9/11.

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Americans like to own disaster when they can.

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Hildebrand-Mills is in love with an assaultive, stand-back color palette that underscores the violent doings in her canvases. Colliding colors – sea-breeze blues and caution-sign yellows – and mushrooming plumes of smoke, fire and human body parts make her canvases – which hover between abstraction and representation – into miasmas of conflicting forces.

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One of the most arresting works for the way that wild-eyed color scheme and the aura of disaster cohere into a deeply satisfying whole is "Blue Lava," a vortex of blue and flame yellow. In the foreground the kind of curvy babe borrowed from pulp mags looks tortured by the bummer of the world's end. Evoking anime, camouflage and the distinct, articulated shapes of paint-by-numbers, the work exerts a dramatic punch.

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Not every artist profits from going venti, but Hildebrand-Mills work tends to give the eye room to roam and keeps things more interesting the bigger she goes. Smaller canvases feel muddy, vague and less theatrical, like the difference between watching Armageddon in a theater or on a laptop. Despite a wonderful mix of contemporary-feeling color and a retro-primitive style, Hildebrand-Mills' work is exploratory and still developing. You long for the artist to tighten things up, to tweak the ideas and the technique, and make things coalesce as well as they do in "Blue Lava."

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Recent Paintings: Hollis Hildebrand-Mills. Through Sept. 7. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Gallery, 980 Briarcliff Road. 404-872-5338. www.callanwolde.org.

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To see more images from Hollis Hildebrand-Mills' work, click here.



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