During my editorial tenure at a Maine-based media company, we moved our offices to a new modern building with lots of glass, dark walls, and gray concrete floors. The Portland Art Gallery had softened the stark spaces with various works of art, and I was lucky to have a Maine coastal landscape by Jill Hoy on the office wall opposite my desk. Especially on dreary winter days, its summertime scene and kaleidoscope of bright colors always brought me joy.
Hoy is accustomed to people describing her work as joyful. “One of the things people most often say when they walk into my gallery is, ‘It’s so happy.’ I don’t think of my paintings as happy, but they are very vital,” she says. “It’s that energy that’s channeled from being outdoors for hours to produce a piece of work.”
While she also paints figurative pieces and still life, when Hoy is in Maine, she works primarily plein air. At her home in Stonington, she starts her summer days by gardening, “to work up a charge,” and her landscapes and paintings often feature colorful flora. “I’m always looking for interactions and my house and garden are full of them,” she says. “I collect a lot of things, I see in intricate layers and interconnectedness, and I feel a pulse beat that I think permeates my work.”
When she heads outdoors with her easel, canvas, and paints, she starts with an abstract approach. “I love my beginnings; I find them the most thrilling,” she says. “I’m going hard and heavy and I see what I want to interact and they’re big shapes laid down with force. Hoy doesn’t sketch out her plein air scenes, she refers to her drawing as “sculpting space”—composition that provides structure for subsequent layered details. She uses vibrant colors to capture the exceptional quality of the light. “A lot of people think of Maine as grey, which I do not,” she says. “We have a very sharp, crystalline light here that bounces onto the ground and reflects up onto white clapboard or into the water, it refracts. There is a tremendous amount of color.”
Hoy’s roots on Deer Isle go back to 1965, when her father bought an old ship captain’s house on the island. Her summers were spent surrounded by artists. “They were at the cocktail parties,” she says. “I grew up watching their work evolve, and now I’m a part of that continuum.” As she reflects on the recent direction of her work, she talks about connectedness—between people and between us and the world around us. “The flow of the universe and the oneness in those times when we come together for whatever reason—they’re very potent,” she says. “In some parallel universe, that’s what my paintings do. There are a lot of alive forcefields going on when you put light, pattern, energy, color, movement, and kinetics together in something that’s very knowledgeably constructed and yet evolved into flow and spontaneity. They’re very alive paintings.”