Light and California:
I was born in Bakersfield, California but grew up working in surf shops along the coast. I learned to fiberglass in my teens and in my thirties learned to use spray equipment to shoot lacquer and urethane paint. Light and California are an inseparable mythology, add optical illusions and surface and you have defined the key interests of my studio practice.
Personal lenses + Cultural mirrors:
My work has a lot of handcraft but also uses equal amounts of technology, both of which are buried or embedded into the final outcome. Growing up in California the first art movement that really inspired me were the Finish Fetish artists [Larry Bell, Judy Chicago, Joe Goode], artists who used car and surfboard culture as a lens as well as a mirror. [McGill got her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.] Their work is very high craft, but it’s that craft that buffs itself into invisibility. I hope the viewer understands that the crafting of the work is predicated on the artist’s skills and engagement with the process and that it acts as a personal lens as well as a cultural mirror.
Politically, I am a feminist. I was the head of a graduate sculpture program for over twenty years [at Michigan’s Cranbury Academy of Art—and an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College and the Pilchuck Glass School]. My agenda was to teach from a platform of equality and criticality. I think education is extremely important and found it gave value to my life. I became interested in customizing when I moved to Detroit, but found few women present in the field historically or currently. Is the field of customizing closed to women or are we as a gender not interested? It is an intriguing and unanswered question.
Working to the edge:
I gravitate to artists that I would define as having idiosyncratic practices. Their work might be associated with a movement or time period, but primarily they work to the edge of it or could be considered fringe, even if they find economic success. Artists’ whose work reflects a uniquely personal worldview and is expressed in a formal language that is not commonly seen.
Stencil + spray:
The use of pattern has been a long term and serious investigation for me as an artist. Pattern can be a method to move through a lot of content and experimentation both optically and culturally. In the 1990s I began experimenting with spraying intricate patterns on form, using the taping and stenciling methods used by customizers. I have continued to investigate the use of stencils and sprayed pigments for over twenty years.
Decoration is an agreed-upon system to organize and interpret our world. Unfortunately, it is often thought of as synonymous with anti-intellectualism.
But everything is decoration.
Most of the shapes in my work are derived from objects that were mass-produced and therefore have a real-world referent. Shapes that conjure in the viewer’s mind a familiarity or an association, but not quite the ability to pinpoint its origin. The shapes appear very “specific,” yet the specifics do not ever settle back onto the existing object. I want that sense of a “driven form” without identification.
Warp, weft, spray:
Because I use textiles as the basis for pattern, the grid is inherently present due to the weaving process. I use the grid system of the warp and weft as a system of structure upon which I can hang imagery, by spraying successive layers of pattern.
A loaded gun:
Experimenting with color is one of the aspects of making that I never plan. I love to load up the spray gun and see what happens. Spraying is very different than using a brush. Both are prosthetics, but spraying allows for more immediate results as well as a seamless, mechanized look. I spray layers of colors to achieve the resulting effect. As for colors, well, I don’t have a favorite color.
Installations & Exhibitions
The Common, David Richard Gallery, New York, New York, 2018
99 Cents or Less, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, 2017
Familiar to Millions, Miller Yerzerski Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2017
ALTERED STATES: A PSYCHEDELIC LEGACY, David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2016
Detroit Rotterdam Exchange Show, Cave Gallery, Detroit, Michigan, 2016
Unnamed Need: Pattern and Beauty in Contemporary Art, Wriston Art Galleries, Lawrence University
Appleton, Wisconsin, 2016
A Very Complete Opposite, Simone DeSousa Gallery, Detroit, Michigan, 2015
Dear Things, Sweet Things, Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 2015
The Color of Everything that is Empty, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio, 2014
Spiral Galaxy, Miller Yerzerski Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2014
Night Moves, Burlington City Arts, Burlington, Vermont, 2013
Car Art/Crash, Elaine L. Jacob Gallery, Wayne State University, Detroit Michigan, 2013
Oblique Angle, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2013
Art X Detroit, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, 2013
Heather McGill: One Person Exhibition, Ellen Miller Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2012
Pulse Contemporary Art Fair 2012, New York, New York
No Object Is An Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 2011
Micaela Amateau Amato, Lynda Benglis, Heather McGill, Dwight Hackett Projects, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2011 Paper Cuts, Fullerton College Art Gallery, Fullerton, California, 2011
Edge: Heather McGill, Richard Rezac, James Shrosbree, Paul Kotula Projects, Ferndale, Michigan, 2010
The Last Time I Saw Richard, The Sculpture Center, Cleveland, Ohio, 2010
Topographies, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 2010
Second Best and Scraps and Makeshifts, Dwight Hackett Projects, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2009
Michigan Masters Invitational, Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 2009
Art on Paper, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, 2008
REMIX Recent Acquisitions: Work on Paper, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 2008
Considering Detroit, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, Michigan, Catalog, 2008
Flower Power: A Subversive Botanical, The New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2008
The Matter at Hand, Memphis College of Art, Memphis, Tennessee, 2008
Birds, Dwight Hackett Projects, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2007
Pull My Daisy, Miller/Block Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007
Cut, Paul Kotula Projects, Ferndale, Michigan, 2007
Harmless Visual Stimulation, Dwight Hackett Projects, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2006
Cutting, Miller/Block Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2006
Extreme Abstraction, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 2005
Draw, Dwight Hackett Projects, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2005
Heather McGill: Black Drawings, Miller/Block Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2005
About Painting, The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, New York, 2004
New Work, Dwight Hackett Projects, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2004
10: A Ten-Year Anniversary Exhibition, Revolution, Ferndale, Michigan, 2004
Lines, Dots and Curlicues, Miller/Block Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 2003
New Prints 2003/Summer, International Print Center, New York, New York, 2003
Bounce!, Revolution, Ferndale, Michigan, 2002
One-Person Exhibition, Revolution, Ferndale, Michigan, 2002
Prototype: Invention & Design in the Work of Four Artists, The Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy, New York, 2001
On Paper III, Revolution, Ferndale, Michigan, 2000
Particular Vision II, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 2000
Wall Magnets, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1999
Postopia, Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, California, 1999
Invitational 1998, Knoedler & Company, New York, New York, 1998
Painting Language, L.A. Louver, Venice, California, 1998
Memory, TZ’ Art & Company, New York, New York, 1998
Esthetics of Minimized Drag, Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan, 1997
Particular Vision, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1996
Intervention, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, 1995
Natural Inclination, Krasl Art Center, Saint Joseph, Michigan, Catalog, 1995
Gallery Artists, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1995
Paper Doll / Social Template, Organization Independent Artist, New York, New York, 1994
Kresge Art Museum, East Lansing, Michigan, 1994
Popular Culture, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1994
Here’s Looking at Me: Contemporary Self-Portraits, Espace Lyonnais d’Art Contemporain, France; Serpentine Gallery, London; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels; Seville Museum, Seville, Spain, Catalog, 1993
One-Person Exhibition, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1993
William Traver Gallery, Seattle, Washington, 1993
Fragile Ecologies: Artist’s Interpretations and Solutions, The Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York; Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington; Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin; San Jose Museum, San Jose, California, Catalog, 1992
A Siege in the Room, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1992
Group Show, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1992
Kunst Kommt von Technik, Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, Germany, Catalog, 1992
Art From The Exploratorium, Mole Antonelliana, Torino, Italy, Catalog, 1992
Nine Plus One: New Work by Cranbrook’s Artists-in-Residence, Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1991
Technorama, Winterthur, Switzerland, 1991
Artists Respond to the Environment, Palo Alto Cultural Center, Palo Alto, California, 1990
PUBLIC ART: Models & Drawings, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, 1990
Untitled, Exploration: City Site Phase II, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1989
36 Trees, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California, 1989
Condo, Public Sculpture in Marin, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, California, Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1989
Art in Public Buildings, California State University, Fresno, California, 1988
ARS-Y-TECH-URA, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1988
The Garden Project, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, California, 1988
Isla de Umunnum (Island of the Hummingbirds), Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Sanctuary, Collaboration with John Roloff, Moss Landing, California, 1986-88
Crow Canyon Garden / Sanctuary, Crow Canyon Institute, San Ramon, California, 1987
Three Floating Pieces for the Oakland Estuary, Oakland, California, 1986
Landscape: Unusual Vantages, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1986
Nature as a Metaphor, The Annual: San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, Catalog, 1985
Crystal Spiral / Native House, Interarts of Marin, Corte Madera, California, 1985
Lite / Site / Projection, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1984
Four New Works, The Exploratorium, San Francisco, California, 1984
Commissions & Public Art
The Progressive Corporation, Annual Report Commission 2017
AXA Art Insurance, Art Basel Miami Beach, 2009
Delphi Automotive Systems, General Motors Worldwide Headquarters, Troy, Michigan, 1997
Isla de Umunnum (Island of the Hummingbirds) Elkhorn Slough National Estaurine Sanctuary, Collaboration with John Roloff, Moss Landing, California, 1986-88
Reviews & Publications
Diana, Gaston, “Dear Things, Sweet Things, ” Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Dartmouth College, 2015. (exhibition essay)
Taylor, Sue, “Canny Devices, Uncanny Enigmas,”Canzani Gallery, Columbus College of Art and Design, 2014.
McQuaid, Cate. “Art Gallery Review: Cracking open dreamtime with visual punch,” The Boston Globe, March 26, 2014.
Buckner, Cindy M. “Oblique Angles and Meaningful Shifts,” Grand Rapids Art Museum, 2013. (exhibition essay) McQuaid, Cate. “Art Gallery Review: Can Paisley, plaid, and wood grain coexist?,” The Boston Globe, April 18, 2012.
Mullins, Matthew. “Interview with Heather McGill,” ArtSlant, February 21, 2012.
Margolis Pineo, Sarah. “ Is There a Place for Poetry, Art and Resistance in the Twenty First Century,” Cranbrook Art Museum, November 2011. p. 93-94. (catalogue)
Russo, Kim. “Tedious Beauty,” Albuquerque Journal, June 19, 2009.
Halperen, Max. Review “Art on Paper.” ART PAPERS, January/Feburary 2009.
Green, Sholes, B Roger. “Cranbrook Craft and What the Future May Hold,” American Craft Magazine, Summer 2008, p. 60. (image)
McQuaid, Cate. “Balancing Artifice and Innocence,” The Boston Globe, June 7, 2007.
Craig, Gerry. “Formal Magnetism,” Surface Design, summer 2007, p.26-31.
Berkovitch, Ellen. Review, Artforum, September 2006, p. 381-382.
Ross, Alex. “Heather McGill: Harmless Visual Stimulation,” THE Magazine, August 2006, p. 71.
Berkovitch, Ellen. “Out of Site,” Art + Auction, June 2006, p. 92.
McQuaid, Cate. “Marks of Distinction,” The Boston Globe, February 9, 2006.
Hirsch, Faye. “Abstract Generations,” Art in America, October 2005, p. 191.
Laget, Mokha. “Heather McGill: New Work,” THE Magazine, July 2004, p. 73.
Craig, Gerry. “Chromatic Insurgency,” Sculpture, Volume 22, No. 8, October 2003.
Tysh, George. “Art That Bytes,” Metro Times, January 29-February 4, 2003, p. 10-12.
Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. MIT Press, 2002, p. 253.
Tysh, George. “Cut From the Mold,” Metro Times, March 20-26, 2002, p. 24.
Alsenas, Linas. “Designers on the Rise,” Interior Design, No. 14, November 2001, p. 82-83.
Hough, Jessica. “Prototype: Invention & Design in the Work of Four Artists,” The Art Center for the Capital Region, Troy, New York, 2001. (essay)
Blinderman, Barry. “Wall Magnets,” Cranbrook Art Museum, November 1999. (essay)
Campbell, Craig S. and Michael H. Ogden, Constructed Wetlands in the Sustainable Landscape. Wiley, 1999, p. 234.
Kingsley, April. “Perfection,” dART International, Volume 2, No. 1, winter 1999.
Pagel, David. “Abstract Views,” Los Angeles Times, August 28, 1998.
Popeson, Pamela. “Loading the Canon,” Cover, Volume 12, No. 5, 1998.
Miro, Marsha. “Design as Discourse,” Casabella, Volume 646, 1997, p. 38-47.
Carducci, Vincent. “On View,” The New Art Examiner, January 1996.
Grande, John K. Balance: Art and Nature. Black Rose Books, 1995, p. 208.
Yau, John. “Storehouse of Virtual Reality,” 1995. (catalogue)
Brunon, Bernard P. “AUTOPORTRAITS Contemporains,” Espace Lyonnais d’ Art Contemporain, January 1993. p. 92. (catalogue)
Farr, Sheila. “Good Medicine, Fragile Ecologies at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art,” Artweek, Volume 24, No. 6, March 18, 1993.
Hackett, Regina. “The Art of Saving the Earth,” Seattle Times, February 26, 1993.
Stark, Gail. “Earth Healing Arts,” The Berringham Herald, March 3, 1993.
Nawrocki, Dennis. Sculpture, March - April 1993, p. 76-77.
Heartney, Eleanor. ART News, Volume 91, No. 10, December 1992, p. 122.
Miro, Marsha. “At Cranbrook: A Room of Her Own,” Detroit Free Press, December 13, 1992. Klemic, Mary. “A Room with a Point of View,” The Eccentric, December 31, 1992.
Kimmelman, Michael. The New York Times, November 27, 1992.
Hess, Elizabeth. “A Gallery of Trash,” Village Voice, October 6, 1992.
Matilsky, Barbara C. Fragile Ecologies: Contemporary Artist’s Interpretation and Solutions, Rizzoli International Publications, 1992, p. 104-107.
Multi Mediale 2, Zentrum fur Kunst und Medietechnologie, Karlsruhe, Germany, 1991, p. 16-28.
Solnit, Rebecca. “Public Art Works: Bringing the Mountains to Mohammed,” Artweek, September 9, 1989. Thibeau, Alice. San Francisco Magazine, p. 104, June 1989.
Teaching & Residencies
Head, Sculpture Department, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1991-2017
Artist in Residence, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 2015
Artist in Residence, Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle, Washington, 1993
Assistant Professor, Sculpture Department, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, New York, 1989-1991
Visiting Lecturer, University of California at Berkeley, California, 1986-1990
Artist-in-Residence, The Exploratorium, San Francisco, California, 1983-1984
San Francisco Art Institute, M.F.A., 1984
Kresge Artist Fellowship, 2011
Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award, 1999
California Arts Council Grant / Art in Public Buildings Program, 1986
Small Projects Award, Interarts, Marin County, California, 1985
Ford Foundation Grant, 1984
Lectures & Panels
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 2015
Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio, 2014
Grand Rapids Art Museum, 2013
University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, 2013
Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 2010
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 2010
Progressive Insurance Company Headquarters, Cleveland, Ohio 2010
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, 2009
Interactions-International: Women, Art, Criticism, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2008
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Fellowship Panelist for Sculpture, 2007
Dialog 360: Artists in Conversation, College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe New Mexico, 2006
Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004
Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 2003
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, 2003
Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 2002
California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California, 2002
Institute of International Education, National Screening Committee, New York, New York, 2001-04
Washington University, School of Art, St. Louis, Missouri, 1999
17th International Sculpture Conference, panelist, Chicago, Illinois, 1998
Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, 1996
New York University, New York, New York, 1995
Aesthetics and Ideologies: Interdisciplinary Conference, Conference in Modern Literature, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 1994
University of California at Davis, Davis, California, 1990
New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, New York, 1989
University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, 1988
Mills College, Oakland, California, 1988
San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California, 1988
California Arts Council, Art in Public Places Selection Panel, Sacramento, California, 1988
Hood Art Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire
Permanent Collection of the US Embassy, Helsinki, Finland, Art in Embassies, US Department of State
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital
Miami Art Museum
The Kresge Art Museum
The Progressive Art Collection
Wellington Management, Boston, Massachusetts
Hallmark Inc., Kansas City, Missouri
21C Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Sprint, Overland Park, Kansas
Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Fidelity Investments, Boston, Massachusetts
Compuware Corporation, Detroit, Michigan
Daimler Chrysler World Headquarters, Auburn Hills, Michigan
Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit, Michigan
Seattle University, Seattle, Washington
Delphi Automotive Systems, General Motors World Headquarters, Troy, Michigan
State of California, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California
Falkirk Cultural Center, City of San Rafael, San Rafael, California
The Exploratorium Science Museum, San Francisco, California