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Julie_heffernan_study_for_self_portrait_as_world_952_45 Julie_heffernan_self_portrait_as_sky_scraper_895_45 Julie_heffernan_self_portrait_as_big_house_966_45 Julie_heffernan_study_for_self_portrait_with_animal_skirt_954_45 Julie_heffernan_study_for_self_portrait_as_not_dead_yet_963_45 Julie_heffernan_self_portrait_as_broken_home_969_45 Julie_heffernan_study_for_self_portrait_as_broken_home_ii_958_45 Study_for_self_portrait_as_fabulous_dropping_ii_2008_30x24_email 39
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Julieheadshot
Study for Self-Portrait as World, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Study for Self-Portrait as World,
2008, oil on canvas, 40"x 46.5"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catherine Clark Gallery
Self Portrait as Sky Scraper, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self Portrait as Sky Scraper,
2008, oil on canvas, 68 x 60"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery
Self Portrait as Big House, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self Portrait as Big House,
2006-2007, oil on canvas, 68"x58"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catherine Clark Gallery
Study for Self-Portrait as Animal Skirt, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Study for Self-Portrait as Animal Skirt,
2008, oil on canvas, 24"x20"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catherine Clark Gallery
Self-Portrait as Not Dead Yet, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self-Portrait as Not Dead Yet,
2008, oil on canvas, 18"x18"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catherine Clark Gallery
Self-Portrait as Broken Home, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self-Portrait as Broken Home,
2008, oil on canvas, 67"x57"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catherine Clark Gallery
Study for Self-Portrait as Growth, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Study for Self-Portrait as Growth,
2008, oil on canvas, 24"x 18"
© courtesy of the Artist and Catherine Clark Gallery
Study for Self Portrait as Fabulous Droppings II, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Study for Self Portrait as Fabulous Droppings II,
2008, Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches
Self Portrait as Albatross, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self Portrait as Albatross,
2008 , oil on canvas , 72 X 54 inches
© Mark Moore Gallery
Self Portrait with Places to Go , Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Self Portrait with Places to Go ,
2009, oil on canvas, 70 X 68 inches
© Mark Moore Gallery
Self Portrait as Roots, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self Portrait as Roots,
2009, oil on canvas, 72 X 56 inches
© Mark Moore Gallery
Beyond Appearances, Tony Oursler, Devorah Sperber, Julie Heffernan, Nina Levy, Whitfield Lovell, Deborah Willis and Hank Willis ThomasTony Oursler, Devorah Sperber, Julie Heffernan, Nina Levy, Whitfield Lovell, Deborah Willis and Hank Willis Thomas,
Beyond Appearances
© Lehman College Art Gallery
, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan
© Courtesy of the Artist and Torrance Art Museum
Sketch for self portrait as dirty princess, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Sketch for self portrait as dirty princess,
2006, 6.5" by 6.25"
© Julie Heffernan
, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan
Belle Du Jour, Iona Rozeal Brown, Langdon Graves, Mickalene Thomas, Sarah Baley, Julie Heffernan, Laurie Simmons, Jane Benson, E.V. Day, Libby Black, Maria Porges, Asgar/Gabriel, Zoe Charlton, Tracey Langfitt, Cynthia RowleyIona Rozeal Brown, Langdon Graves, Mickalene Thomas, Sarah Baley, Julie Heffernan, Laurie Simmons, Jane Benson, E.V. Day, Libby Black, Maria Porges, Asgar/Gabriel, Zoe Charlton, Tracey Langfitt, Cynthia Rowley,
Belle Du Jour, 2008
Study for Self Portrait as Heap , Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Study for Self Portrait as Heap ,
2010, Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
© Courtesy of the Artist and Mark Moore Gallery
, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan
Self-Portrait with Man and Boy , Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self-Portrait with Man and Boy ,
2011, Oil on canvas , 68 x 54 inches
© Courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery
Millennium Burial Mound, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Millennium Burial Mound,
2012, Oil on canvas, 68 x 80 in
© Courtesy of Mark Moore Gallery and the artist
Self Portrait as Gorgeous Tumour II, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan,
Self Portrait as Gorgeous Tumour II,
2004, Oil on Canvas
© 173 x 127cm
Tree House, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Tree House,
2011, oil on canvas, 64 x 60 inches
© Courtesy of the Artist and Mark Moore Gallery
Intrepid Scout Leader, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Intrepid Scout Leader,
2011, Archival pigment print, museum board, glass jewels, metal fittings, gold leaf, PVA glue, acrylic handwork , Edition of 25, plus proofs 36 x 27 inches
© Courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery
Picking up the Pieces, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Picking up the Pieces,
2010, oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches
© Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
Self Portrait as Broken Dishes, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self Portrait as Broken Dishes,
2013, oil on canvas, 74 x 68 inches
© Courtesy of the artist & The P.P.O.W Gallery
Self Portrait on the Brink, Julie HeffernanJulie Heffernan, Self Portrait on the Brink,
2013, Oil on canvas, 54 x 66 inches
© Julie Heffernan & P.P.O.W Gallery
Julie Heffernan's paintings reveal her preoccupation with Baroque sensibilities-the interior spaces of her compositions often refer to grand ballrooms and ornate drawing rooms, while the figures are weighted by fantastical costumes overwrought with flora and fauna. She has an undergraduate degree in painting and printmaking from University of California, Santa Cruz and a graduate degree...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Julie Heffernan

Julie Heffernan is currently on view in A 25th Anniversary Show (January 8 - February 12, 2011) celebrating the opening of Mark Moore's new gallery space in Culver City, CA.  The following interview between Sura Wood and Julie Heffernan took place in San Francisco after the opening of Broken Homes at Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco.

Courtesy of the artist


Sura Wood:  Could you please tell us about your background and your approach to your work?

Julie Heffernan: I grew up in the East Bay of Northern California and began painting murals in college as a response to what I perceived to be an ugly world of low flat commercial buildings that seemed to have proliferated overnight in the 70s. As a student at UC Santa Cruz (BFA in Painting and Printmaking 1981), I would sneak out with friends at night and paint on billboards, changing the wording or imagery to subvert the consumerist message in favor of our more radical values. During that time I painted four large-scale murals with more communitarian subject matter, and received a President's Fellowship from UCSC for one of them.

I went to Yale School of Art and Architecture (MFA in Painting and Printmaking 1985) in order to learn what a painting can be.  I was trying to figure out how to use figuration in a fresh way, making stews of Bonnardian color with Tintoretto distortion. I received a Fulbright-Hayes Grant to West Berlin in 1986 and lived for two years in Berlin, painting day and night, still wrestling with the figuration problem. It was there that I stumbled on the practice that continues to fuel my work called, "image streaming." These are the pictures that flood into your brain almost like a slide show just before sleep. (This) represented a wealth of imagery that appealed to me for its seeming autonomy from the controls of the conscious mind. I began to jot down quickly in paint some of these individual "film stills," and then to use them in larger still life paintings as mini "projections" onto enlarged apples and pears. I came to see these thought bubbles as accumlated features of an interior self, and as a way into painting a different kind of self-portrait, one more akin to a truer self, conceived without the distortion of a mirror. Gradually, I was able to pierce the space of the still life and find landscapes that mirrored a similar interiority. They invited to enter them more and more deeply in a kind of quintessentiallly feminine space. After awhile, I came to understand that this imagery as a sort of mental montage, in combination with compositional quirks(that) I would find in the landscapes, were giving me the components, in abstract form, of a kind of narrative painting that felt very engaged with the current dialogue in painting and (the) personal at the same time. As the painting went on, I would seek to unearth a deeper story than the one I started with, one that took me to a more complex level of understanding. I continue to use painting as a way of trying to see more deeply into myself and into the stories that suggest themselves to me in the work. I let the paintings lead me and continue to be amazed and grateful for a process that allows for such access to the unconscious.

SW:  Previously, you've been known for your figurative works. This show marks a departure for you. What spurred this change in direction?

JH: I like to work with all the genres. I'm attracted to the figure for its iconic power, but I'm equally attracted to landscape for how it allows me to stretch the iconic into conceptual situations that reflect the complexities of our contemporary situation. In this particular body of work I think of the landscape forms as figures: the structures loom up out of the landscape like figures, and consist of many rooms where imagined situations are occurring, like the mind.  So they feel like a very natural extension of the figures as opposed to a departure.

SW:  "Broken Homes" refers to alternative families or does it? Would you elaborate on the "Broken Homes" you've devised and what made this a compelling subject?

JH: The earth is our broken home. We're in the process of breaking it, and as we're breaking it the horrors-and ecstasies-- that we perpetrate are on view, like a Pandora's Box. The phrase itself, in general parlance, is used when one or both parents leave the home, and, to my mind, this is an apt image for the kind of leadership (or lack thereof) we've had over the past several years; there are no adults in the home, the children are left to fend for themselves with all their primitive urges. The urges include the ecstatic and chaotic both. What's important to me however is that in each painting there is the possibility for elevation, progress, climbing out of the primitive into other states of a more complex mind. In each painting there are avenues/pathways--with obstacles/stumbling blocks-- for that to happen.

SW:  There is something of the forest primeval, of mythical creatures and fantasy here. I half expected Diana, the goddess of the hunt, to spring forth full-blown from the canvas or at least to spot a few hobbits. In fact, some of the scenes you depict look like a cross between suburbia and the Shire. Myth is a rich and complex source as is art history. What kinds of mythology and art historical imagery did you draw upon and what attracted you to them?

JH: Breughel's Tower of Babel is always in the back of my mind, but I wasn't referring to any particular myth or art historical image. I love medieval rock forms, cairns -that mark a path-- and celtic burial mounds for their combining of earth and corpse. Also, I'm part of the generation that experienced the transformation of wild spaces into suburbia. I grew up playing in the shells of tract homes as they were being built, smoking cigarettes and making little fires in them, courting trouble. They were our modern day ruins where we could imagine different kinds of lives happening in and around these shells. There's been a recent building boom in NYC so I've been very interested in structures in general lately, the erecting and dismantling of them, and some or both tend to find their way into all the paintings. And finally, the WTC is always there as a spectre in the background, too.

SW:  I was very struck by "Study for Self-Portrait as Animal Skirt, 2008." The female figure's head is wreathed in a bough of flowers and she's set against a blue-green background as if she's a mermaid emerging from the sea. The painting has a floating majesty but it's also girded to the earth. It's full of contradictions and seemingly oppositional forces and it all works. Who is she?

JH: I made a whole series of women with animal skirts for my last show in NY. I was interested in the figure as the nodal point for images of our destructiveness and the ecstatic bound together.

Julie HeffernanStudy for Self Portrait as Flat World, 2009, Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches; Courtesy of Mark Moore Gallery


SW:  Your paintings convey a vivid sensation of barely contained chaos and an equally strong awareness of order, a firm hand guiding the proceedings which gives them both excitement and an eerie calm. Do you work hard to impose order on your compositions or do you prefer the tension between order and skating near the edge of losing control?

JH: Good question.  I work very hard to keep both chaos and order in equal proportions. Once I've found a composition that describes a state that is somehow metamorphosing -forms coming out of other forms, changing states-only then do I start to work with the detail that gives a sense of particularity, of inevitability to the otherwise ambiguous events. Despite all the detail you see in the paintings, it's really the compositions I care most about because the story is told as much in the form as the content.

SW:  Speaking of sources, your work evokes the otherworldly beauties of Botticelli and elements of Escher's architectural intricacy-- quite a combination. What, if any, are your points of reference?

JH: Although I admire them both, neither of those artists is in my pantheon of personal favorites. That said, other than Bonnard, whose paintings, with their perfect pitch, were very instrumental in teaching me how to compose early on, I don't look to any particular painter anymore as a sole reference point.  I do however always have Velasquez, Church and Poussin at my side as my spiritual and visual guides.

SW:  When we talked earlier, you mentioned that you don't look at yourself or reference yourself directly, yet many of the works are titled "self portraits."  Could you talk more about this?

JH: That nomenclature comes out of the early paintings where I was using the still life-the apples and pears-as vessels to literally hold the thought bubbles within them, like the mental imagery I see in my mind's eye in an image streaming state. The apples functioned for me in a literal way as a metaphor for the surface of the mind onto which these images seemed to be projected.  I called them self portraits because they seemed to me to be portraits of the interior self-a much more apt reflection of myself than a mirror could afford.

SW:  In traditional psychology, the house, particularly in dreams, represents the self. With that idea in mind, is "Self-Portrait as Big House" a deconstruction of the inner workings of your psyche?

JH: Absolutely. The events in the rooms came to me in a very intuitive way, and as I would paint one, I would let the next suggest itself to me in the course of painting.  In that way the rooms all relate to each other, however tangentially, and the events metamorphose, one from another, throughout the piece.  For each room I would start with an initial image that came to me out of the blue as it were; then, I would imagine a variety of different circumstances that grew out of the initial situation, letting my mind riff until gradually those early images would become compounded into something that rose to the level of a mini-narrative telling me a story that surprises me.

SW:  It's still difficult for artists to support themselves solely from their work. Many teach, as you do. Does teaching feed your work or can it drain your creative energy?

JH: I teach to remind myself of the important questions that we forget as we move further away from the status of beginners.  Each painting really should be like the first one where you totally surprise yourself and blow your own mind.  But that gets harder and harder every year so I like being around beginners to keep reminding myself of that.

SW:  What do you do when not toiling in the studio? Any films, books or shows you've seen you loved-- or hated?

JH: As far as books, films, shows, my husband is a theater critic so we see tons of theater, avant-garde and Broadway both. Much is tedious but every once in a while something thrilling occurs, like Beckett's "Happy Days" with Fiona Shaw at BAM. I just found out I'm to be the featured artist for BAM's (Brooklyn Academy of Music) spring season of performances. Other artists have been Chuck Close, Robert Wilson, Julio Galan. My neighborhood in Brooklyn is full of my favorite authors, like Paul Auster, Jonathan Lethem and Siri Husvedt. Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn" and "Fortress of Solitude" are real favorites and everything Auster writes is great. "What I Loved" by Husvedt terrified me. Brooklyn makes me deliriously happy every day. One of my favorite artists, Janine Anton, lives three houses up the street. 11th Street, my street, also has wonderful artists--Paul Ramirez, Joan Snyder, LIsa Sigal and Byron Kim--living on it. My favorite movie is "Breaking the Waves" by Lars von Trier, which is the last sacred film ever made.

SW:  What's next for you?

JH: Who knows????  I'm just starting a new body of work for a show in LA and doing a lot of moaning and holding my head.  I go through this all the time when I start a new painting, where I think ‘that's it; it's over; all the pictures in my head are now gone and I'll never paint another painting that surprises me.'  But I do a lot of secular praying and carry a lot of gratefulness around with me all the time, and each time I get an answer to a painting problem I think of it as a mini-miracle, for which I am always very grateful.


ArtSlant would like to thank Julie Heffernan for her assistance in making this interview possible.

- Sura Wood

FORMER RACKROOMERS

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