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Native Son David Hill to Show Latest Work

Jan. 7, 2005 — Many – if not most – V.I. artists were born somewhere else, trained in their craft somewhere else, and didn't meet their Caribbean muse until chance or fate brought them to these shores. David Hill, on the other hand, was born here, um, almost.
"I was born in Tortola, but only because my mom was on vacation there," Hill explained during an interview Friday, adding, "I came back on a ferry the next day." And from that first boat ride back from the B.V.I. until the end of high school, Hill called St. Thomas home.
Hill, now 28 and just back from finishing up his degree at the Art Institute of Boston, will have his latest work on display during a solo exhibition this weekend at Frenchman's Reef. He will show 25 pieces, most of them oil paintings, ranging in size from two inches square to four feet tall.
"Last year I got really into water," Hill said, articulating the impetus behind the show's title, "Reflection." In the early water pieces there was never a horizon, he explained, there were just sections of water. Then he said he became captivated by the way light works upon the surface of the ocean. "I gradually started creeping up toward the horizon, and so then I had a light source reflecting off the water."
Many on St. Thomas have had the opportunity to see Hill's work on display at Alexander's Bella Blu. Claire Ochoa, owner of Gallery St. Thomas, puts on monthly shows at the landmark Frenchtown eatery, and more than once has featured Hill's work.
Though much of this show is conceptual, Hill said he hasn't given up on representational art and that there will also be a few landscapes. The centerpiece is also the largest of the work in the show, a triptych he calls "Moon."
But subjects as lofty as the moon and the dance of light and sea have not always been Hill's forte. The young artist said his first endeavors came out of watching his mother, Debi Cashen. "She used to be a silversmith," Hill said, laughing, "and I would watch her work and make little swords for my G.I. Joe's out of silver."
Hill said he just never stopped experimenting with art. From Montessori School he went on to Antilles and then All Saints. Eventually, a teacher from the St. Thomas School of Visual Arts and Careers saw his work and invited him to participate in the after-school program.
"I loved it," Hill said of the afternoon hours spent with fellow art students. "We all sort of pushed each other."
Hill flew off to college in the states where he studied computer animation. Cyber-art, however, was not his speed. "I earned a degree and did quite well at it, but it turns out that I hated computers and so I never ended up using the diploma."
It was a different kind of creation that called him, and so he set off to Italy where he studied figure drawing in Florence. Hill also spent some time in Hawaii, where he also studied, though less formally.
Then it was back to his native St. Thomas where in 1999 he participated in his first group show at a St. John gallery. He remembers fondly the pieces he prepared for that inaugural show, speaking of how they showed him his beginning mastery of the concepts he'd absorbed only partially while studying in Italy.
And for now Hill says he's content to be on St. Thomas. He hopes to begin teaching classes in January, and has a press on order that will allow him to experiment with another of his passions, etching.
"Reflection" will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday evening at Frenchman's Reef in Island Rooms 4 and 8. At 8:30 Hill will discuss his new paintings and will be available to answer questions.
For a preview of Hill's work you may visit Ochoa's Gallery St. Thomas online. You won't see any of the paintings in this weekend's show, but a stroll through her Web site will yield several examples of Hill's earlier work.

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