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In Memorium: Marvin Hill, 1952-2003

by Mark Lawson

Perhaps no other artist has been so closely identified with the Riverwest community as printmaker Marvin Hill. Marvin passed away on December 2 after a five-year battle with lymphoma. His graphics for Artwalk posters, T-shirts, and pins throughout the 1990s gave the event a highly recognizable style with a humorous, down-home character. A prodigious artist who often sketched even while eating in a restaurant or working at one of the countless art fairs he participated in with his wife Wendy, he produced hundreds of different prints in his lifetime. MarvinHill1991.jpgAlthough they continued to own a house on Fratney Street, the Hills moved to a farm in Jefferson County in the late ’90s. It became an ideal studio for the production of Marvin’s prints which he marketed at art fairs and in galleries around the US. His style of rendering has influences from early 20th century animated features and comic strips. His prints often told some sort of story and were often populated with characters rich in personality, pathos, and humor. A few of his Artwalk images are reproduced here. I recall in the mid-1990s, while planning for Artwalk, the Riverwest Artists Association (RAA) board decided to open up the design for that year’s event as a competition open to all the RAA members. Some of the other artists in the group had expressed the desire to have a chance to submit their concepts for Artwalk’s identity after the first few years of Marvin’s designs. Several very strong designs emerged, but Marvin’s was clearly much more in tune with the spirit and character of the event. It was a visual identity which he had been instrumental in establishing, and even today, still bears the character of his vision. Marvin and Wendy Hill were very involved with RAA in the early ’90s when we moved into the current “Jackpot” space on Center Street, opening RAA’s first gallery. This was a very productive and fertile time for the organization, and the Hills’ contributions not only gave RAA a cohesive visual style, but helped in countless other ways to run the gallery, stage exhibitions, and carry out other programming in the neighborhood. The art community of Riverwest and of Wisconsin will miss one of its most talented, humorous, and exceptional members.
by Mark Lawson