Two square plates with their corners close together diagonally. They each depict astronauts in space trying to hold onto a rope to connect them.

CREATORS – Amy Rae Hill

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Amy Rae Hill

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

The art! And I think that’s an important distinction. While I value the scientific accuracy in my work, I make choices in my work first and foremost in service of the art. Have I ever seen two astronauts embracing in front of a nebula like W40? No, but that’s because the scene I painted isn’t simply about replicating NASA photography. It’s about love and the celebration of exploration! And hopefully if someone is moved by my painting, they will be inspired to check out the nebula. If we acknowledge and understand what is art and what is science and what is a little bit of both, I believe the arts and sciences can continue to expand as a connected community!

“If we acknowledge and understand what is art and what is science and what is a little bit of both, I believe the arts and sciences can continue to expand as a connected community!”

Amy Rae Hill
Ceramic plate with round red nebula and white outlines of two astronauts hugging
Space Embrace (2020) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic plate
Teapot with long, thin red and blue Witch's Broom nebula stretching from the spout across the entire teapot
Witch’s Broom Nebula Teapot (2020) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic teapot
Two hexagon-shaped coasters that look like the surface of the moon
Crater Coasters (2019) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic hexagon coasters

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

Astronomy, planetary science, and all space-related studies are influential on my work. I’m drawn to those fields because of what their studies represent: bravely exploring the unknown. Whether we send an astronaut or a rover, I want to imagine the possibilities of their journeys in my paintings. And I put those space paintings on everyday ceramic items like mugs, cups, and plates. I don’t believe people necessarily need to visit a gallery to experience art that pushes them to ponder deep space. Someone could be sitting in their kitchen drinking a cup of coffee out of a hand-painted cup sporting the Crab Pulsar and have the same quiet moment thinking about the nature of our universe. As people have those quiet moments of thought in our current world, I hope my work is a gentle reminder that new and changing worlds don’t have to be so scary.

“I don’t believe people necessarily need to visit a gallery to experience art that pushes them to ponder deep space.”

Amy Rae Hill
Image of the Crab Pulsar neutron star, which glows purple-red and has a bright, oval-shaped center
Crab Pulsar Plate (2018) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic plate
One bowl has the white outline of an astronaut floating in space in front of a white-blue nebula, and the other bowl has droplets painted on it. Within the droplets are paintings of another bowl, "The Invasion."
Bowl of Astronaut, Invasion Droplets (2019) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic bowls
Ceramic wine glass with a tiny version of the Opportunity "Oppy" Mars Rover on the surface of Mars.
Oppy Wine Glass (2019) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic wine glass

What materials do you use to create your artworks?  
 
My work is painted pottery. I order bisque (meaning the clay has been fired once), like stemless wine glasses, bowls, and plates, then paint the bisque with pottery glaze and fire again. It’s such a fun medium, seeing how the heat of the kiln can transform the glaze design. I get just as excited when I open up the kiln today as the first day I began painting pottery.

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

I haven’t done an exhibition in a while, but I will say the piece I love the most is a large serving bowl called The Invasion. I painted it back in 2017 after losing a parent when things were a little overwhelming. It features a small figure of an astronaut standing on the surface of a moon cracking apart beneath them. There are large ominous cracks in the rock branching toward the space person, but they stand facing what’s before them. Every time I look at that piece it makes me feel more alive.

Ceramic bowl with the small figure of an astronaut standing on the surface of a moon cracking apart beneath them. There are large ominous cracks in the rock branching toward the space person, but they stand facing what’s before them
The Invasion (2017) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic bowl
Vase with a purple Milky Way stretching diagonally along the length
Milky Way Vase (2018) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic vase
Ceramic wine glass with a large moon among a black sky and bright stars
Imagined Moon Wine Glass (2019) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic wine glass

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

I owe much of my place in the space art community to STARtorialist, who introduced me to Lauren Beacham of Yugen Tribe, Chrissy Sparks, and other amazing artists who do gorgeous celestial things through paint and jewelry. I also can’t NOT mention Dr. Sarah Hörst, who’s been a constant supporter. Her lab’s studies have led to me paint an entire Titan tea set!

There isn’t really an artist I can point to and say, “Yes, my style comes from this person.” But the dramatic stage setting in many of my paintings comes from my love of the old master, Caravaggio. As for contemporary artists bringing 21st century imagery onto the surface of ceramics, Adam Chau is a great inspiration. He brings modern life into an ancient medium so seamlessly.  

Japanese style tea set with a teapot that has a bamboo handle and four rounded teacups without handles. Each piece features the moon Titan surrounded by the black sky and white stars.
Titan Tea Set (2019) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic tea set
Ceramic plate featuring the first image of a black hole. The black hole is a yellowish-red donut shape with a black background.
Black Hole Plate (2019) by Amy Rae Hill, glaze, ceramic plate

For more by Amy Rae Hill, visit her Instagram or Twitter.

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About the Author
McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for Art the Science's blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman