The Art and Science of Happiness review- Arica Hilton, Jay Kumar and the “Four C’s”

Arica Hilton, Presentation at SOFA Chicago
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“Art is a harbinger of serenity, tranquility, hope, inspiration, faith, and ultimately happiness”. Arica Hilton

Hilton/Asmus Contemporary, a beautifully appointed art gallery at 716 N. Wells St. is currently displaying an exhibition entitled The Art and Science of Happiness, through February 14, 2020. The show features paintings and sculptures created by multi-genre artist/gallery owner, poet, humanitarian Arica Hilton inspired by Dr. Jay Kumar. Arica Hilton’s work can be seen as s a visual manifestation of Kumar’s happiness strategies, as outlined in his new book, Science of a Happy Brain: Thriving in the Age of Anger, Anxiety and Addiction. In fact, Hilton’s painting, Universe, Life Unlimited, is featured on the cover.

“The Science of A Happy Brain” by Jay Kumar; cover art by Arica Hilton

 Kumar, a pioneer in the field of brain science, behavioral health and happiness, and co-founder of the Applied Brain Science Research Institute, has developed strategies for tapping into an empowering state of mind. In his efforts to understand why happiness seems so elusive to virtually everyone on the planet,  Kumar focuses on “The Four Cs of Happiness” – Comfort, Contribution, Connection, and Compassion.

The essence of the collaboration between Dr. Jay, “The Happiness Professor”, and Arica Hilton, the artist, is embodied in one of Hilton’s neon sculptures announcing, “I have one wing, you have another. Together we can fly!” It is not hard to imagine this woman flying, or succeeding at any initiative whatsoever; her infectious personality and perennially youthful personae are impressive, magnetic. Her ability to connect is immediate. And the art she crafts is sensorily arousing.

Arica Hilton; photo by Kirsten Miccoli

Hilton’s paintings, displayed with brilliant soft lighting on the spacious walls of the gallery she runs with husband Sven Asmus, are instantly appealing. They draw one in, engage first the eye, then the thought processes, then begin to work on emotions. If one perceives of happiness as an intellectual journey of perceptual awareness and mood elevation, then these paintings can be the guide. They can be loosely described as influenced by 19th century luminism, with its emphasis on natural shadings, but the light here is numinous, much more focused. The paintings are lit from within, across, and behind the striations of color and they transmute as one sees them from different angles.

Hilton advises me that her paintings literally evolve. Fearless, she will revise or paint over even very successful works of art; sometimes lines of demarcation from an earlier “incarnation” create unusual shadows. The large canvases, upon nearer inspection, also contain subtle overlays of acrylic chips, which create a hearkening of awareness within the viewer; are they there to promote re-use, or to convict the planet for the inundation of our deepest ocean spaces with noxious by-products?

Hilton, a world explorer who has descended into cages to study sharks,  is an active conservationist, lending her time and resources to environmental causes and supporting at-risk children’s and women’s initiatives. Her world tour, I FLOW LIKE WATER, raises awareness and searches for solutions to the billions of tons of plastic polluting our oceans, and has been exhibited in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beirut, Brussels, Geneva, New York, Aspen and Chicago.

Gerould Kern, former editor of the Chicago Tribune, wrote in the introduction for her exhibition at the Union League Club, “Without water, there is no life.  Without life, there is no consciousness.  Without consciousness, there is no art.  Without art, there is no revelation.  And here, Arica Hilton is the instrument of our revelation.”

Arica Hilton, “Heart of the Ocean”

Hilton/Asmus Contemporary is the result of Hilton’s 30 plus years of experience in representing artists around the world. Founded in 2012,  the gallery has seen tremendous growth and recognition for the caliber of art exhibitions Hilton has brought to Chicago.

Located in Chicago’s River North Art District, the gallery specializes in modern and contemporary paintings, works on paper, sculpture and photography featuring Chicago-based emerging and established artists, with a focus on internationally known artists from Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Region such as France, Italy, Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East. Hilton/Asmus Contemporary has received national acclaim for exhibitions of the photographers David Yarrow, David Gamble, Terry O’Neill, Douglas Kirkland, Peter Sorel and Julian Wasser.

Yarrow’s incredible shots of live jungle beasts trolling the streets and playgrounds of people are disturbingly witty, contain an extreme dichotomy which must be seen. The gallery also showcases the sculpture of Blake Ward, anatomically incorrect, satiric, provocative and powerful. A visit will be exhilarating, you won’t want to leave.

“Universe, Life Unlimited”, by Arica Hilton

All photos courtesy of the artist, unless otherwise noted.

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