I first became aware of arts impact by seeing a lone woman paint a mural at a steel mill to celebrate the conclusion of a long, bitter labor strike. This experience grounded me as an artist in process, material, and structural expression with a concern for how art reveals us to ourselves. Currently, I have been exploring natural worlds that survive post-industrial human habitation.
My work evolves from a profound interest in given sites as unique, specific places. Subtle questions of orientation and perception permeate my installations, drawings and interdisciplinary collaborations. I begin with the immediacy of direct observation and build physical poetics from common phenomena - shadows, chance, tactility, gravity, sound. Forces of nature such as growth, weather or erosion, even the most minute evidence of human impact such as "weeds" call for my attention. I am fascinated with space, human proprioception, movement and how they might collude to activate viewers.
Jill Sebastian grew up in steel towns of the Midwest rust belt which has formed her as an artist. Her sculpture, drawings and installations have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and internationally (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Tele Aviv, Amsterdam and more). Sebastian’s public art includes: a musical fence in New Orleans; an architecturally integrated literary project for the Milwaukee Convention Center (with Woodland Pattern Book Center); a streetscape (with Ken Saiki Design) for Madison, WI; and a mosaic for the Genome Center at UW-Madison. Her concerns with community participation and subliminal choreography underlying all her public work is expressed in the site-specific sculptural pocket park she developed among five baseball fields in Wick Park, Milwaukee. Sebastian has collaborated with Deb Loewen, Wild Space Dance Company to create a site-specific installation and hour-long multi media work, Art of the Ordinary, at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Other collaborators include composers Burt Levy and Josh Schmidt, writers John Koethe and Jon Erickson and filmmaker Jake Fuller. Among her awards are a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship 1985, City of Milwaukee Artist of the Year 1997 and Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award 2016. Jill Sebastian is a Professor Emerita at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.