Colorful abstract painting - 2018, oil on canvas, 30 x 32"

The Heart's Bright and Dark Light

West Gallery
April 18, 2021
May 24, 2021

Jil Evans

Virtual exhibition on view now!

Inspired by five historic paintings, Evans’ painterly abstractions explore the role of light and color in conveying convictions about and responses to good, evil, danger, tragedy and transcendence.

Due to the evolving situation around coronavirus and to promote social distancing, The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery is temporarily closed. View the entire exhibition below, and visit the guestbook here to leave a comment for the artist. For pricing information or to request a complimentary catalog, please contact Gallery Director Nicole Watson: Thank you for visiting!


Jil Evans has exhibited nationally and internationally, and her work is included in several museum, corporate and private collections. She has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, Arts Midwest/National Endowment from the Arts and the Minnesota State Arts Board. In addition, she has been the recipient of the Pew Grant to study and paint in Italy, and she has been awarded residences at the American Academy in Rome and the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Evans received her BFA from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan; her MA in painting from the University of Iowa; and an MFA in painting from Stanford University. She currently maintains a studio in Minneapolis.


"An art that heals and protects its subject is a geography of scars."
– Wendell Berry, Damage

My engagement with abstraction began four decades ago with a desire to find a visual expression for the feelings and states of mind I experienced but did not (and still do not) have words for. The visual elements of my work—my visual vocabulary—comes from the landscape of my childhood. I grew up near the steel mills in Gary, Indiana, where daily I saw the factories and towers of flames cutting against the spacious, unbroken horizon of Lake Michigan. The tension between these elements—the industrial, the natural—lies at the root of my desire to articulate visually our fragility and our wrought common search to find a way to humanely inhabit the world with compassion. While my work is not driven by an explicit critique of the industrial world, I have a longstanding awareness of the dangerous threat to human life, and non-human life, amid mechanized impersonal forces.

My work is grounded in observations of natural and industrial worlds as well as intensive studies of historical painters. Both practices deepen my ability to bring breadth to how I work with abstraction. For the past ten years I’ve made hundreds of photographs of flooded rivers, wading into the water to capture images of broken trees, branches, and reflections of the sky. When looking down into disaster landscapes I see a cacophony of destruction that is yet united by the water and the fragments of light underneath and on top of the water, creating visual tensions I want to order
and inhabit.

In my most recent body of work, Heart Bright Dark, I brought my flood source images together with studies of light in five historical paintings. I explored the content that light brought to each of these paintings. There I found elegiac light, light portraying the ordinary with the mythic, domestic light with the supernatural, light as foreboding and destroyer. Inspired by these ideas, I find myself taking greater risks with contrasts in color and light, making more emphatic juxtapositions between organic and geometric forms, between places of safety and places of danger; a mirror of how we hold these things in our own hearts in our struggle to inhabit the world humanely.

Jil Evans exhibition logo displaying title: "the heart's BRIGHT and DARK LIGHT