By: Gail Obenreder
“I am using my paintings to describe the journey that many of us – and in particular women – have undergone in the last years.”
Jill Althouse-Wood follows multiple creative pathways – the written word and the visual arts. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in fiber arts and metals, Althouse-Wood worked for 15 years as a textile designer. “Being that my work life centered around visual and tactile work, my creative practice turned to writing.” But after a downturn in the market, she left the textile industry which gave her more time to devote to both writing and visual arts.
Althouse-Wood grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where she lived until moving to Delaware a decade ago. Influenced early on by fashion, fabric, and design, she scoured William Morris books for colorways and explored the textile art of Kaffe Fassett and quilts of Faith Ringgold. Presently, Althouse-Wood is inspired by the people aurrounding her – “the local art scenes in Wilmington and Lancaster . . . artists who are doing spectacular work.”
She is also influenced by place. In 2017, Althouse-Wood exhibited a collection of gilded abstract forestscapes, a statement of her deep reverence for the natural world and a paean to “the forest as cathedral.” The Arden resident is continually “astounded by nature and the cycles of the year.” Recently, due to the political and social climate – and the strictures of the pandemic – her paintings havd taken a darker turn. Through the lenses of nature and mythology, her Fellowship-winning work now explores the forest as “a place of mystery, uncertainty, danger, obstacle, and transformation – the classic heroine’s journey.”
Finding time and space to do “all the work I want to do” is one of the artist’s major challenges. “I have a need to express myself in many different ways,” and Althouse-Wood “tends to go in cycles, alternating writing with painting.” Whichever she is undertaking, she “values the connections made through art” and is gratified when her work “is transformed by an audience that brings multiple individual experiences and creates new interpretations.”
Althouse-Wood likes to hike and to travel, especially in Italy, where “I love the light and the artist traditions.” But she’s also passionate about something very close to home – her community of Arden, a place where “so many creative people work and live.” Recently, she has been working with neighbors to form the Arden Artisan Collective, hoping to give more visibility to the community and to showcase works by the group’s evolving membership.
Althouse-Wood plans to utilize the Division’s Emerging Artist Fellowship to make both practical and creative changes. She hopes to outfit her studio with moving cabinets, allowing her to convert spaces that will more easily merge living and painting spaces. And artistically, “I’ve been painting forests for the past ten years. I’d like to move on to other natural landscapes,” continuing to “strive for universality by using archetypes that already exist in our shared cultural vocabulary.”Fellowship Home