In many ways, the work of 26-year-old artist and curator Tyla Hilfreich defies definition. The Appleton resident works in a variety of mediums, from printmaking and graphic arts to sculpture made from trash found on the street.
In July, Hilfreich participated in UW-Manitowoc’s Really Big Prints 3.0, a gathering of printmakers creating relief prints so large they require a street roller to complete. The 3-by-4-foot stamp he created is one of four sections that will eventually make one larger piece. Each section depicts a theological theme, including enlightenment, temptation and the fall of man.
“This kind of work means a lot to me because it has a deeper meaning,” Hilfreich says. “The symbols tell a story rather than just being a pretty picture.”
Meaning is infused into everything Hilfreich creates. As art curator for Tempest Coffee Collective in Appleton, Hilfreich changes out work each quarter on the solstice and equinox, harnessing the power of seasonal change.
In addition to printmaking and curating, Hilfreich works with found and discarded objects to make sculptures he refers to as “garbage art.” One sculpture titled “Appleton City Portrait” was created by layering trash found on the city’s streets.
“I love calling it that, garbage art,” Hilfreich laughs. “We don’t have to keep producing and consuming materials because we can just use materials that are already consumed. We can repurpose them because they are still beautiful things. When I make work, I’m trying to help people think in different ways that can trickle down and help the planet or at least our community.”
This type of art activism is rooted in a broader interest in humanity that Hilfreich gained through his travels. He earned a B.F.A. in studio art with an emphasis in printmaking from UW-Stout. During college, a year spent in Germany studying graphic design and printmaking was a turning point for Hilfreich, as both a human and artist.
“I became more self-aware, more patient, compassionate and understanding of people overall,” Hilfreich says. “That understanding has translated to being an artist in just being spatially aware and aware of other people. Everything has it’s own energy and I never really knew that before.”
See artwork by Tyla Hilfreich at Art On the Town on September 21 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the College Avenue Parklet Place next to Copper Rock Coffee Co. Visit him online at hilfreichstudio.com, on Facebook at Hilfreich Studio and on Instagram @tyla_hilfreich_