Interview Heidi Petersen, the artist gives new life to old memories
It is such a blessing for me that I can interview Heidi Petersen, the assemblage artist. She is very nice and honest, and the communication with her significantly inspired me. Heidi received her BS degree in drawing and painting from Biola University in 1993. She has had several solo exhibitions, three taking place at Waterstone Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Among other juried and invitational exhibitions, her work has been shown in the Sitka Invitational at the World Forestry Center in Portland. Heidi’s art has also been featured in Oregon Home Magazine. She creates her work in the upper story of a shop/ barn on their two acres.
Art is beyond any language
Before answering my questions, Heidi shared a dialogue with me first to explain why it’s a little difficult for her to answer some of my questions. The dialogue is between Tal R and Gerhard Richer from a blog by Gala Ben. It talks about art for artists is a way of thinking. Tal R said: “There is a clear progression to the images I pick up, but it is beyond my language. You invent something and afterward you talk about it. I think artists should watch out; they should admit that their work will always be faster than language.” As an artist, Heidi respects art itself, she believes art is powerful enough to express, and it is stronger than any other language.
Why do you choose assemblage?
Heidi has always had an inclination for disarranging objects and finding new dynamic juxtapositions to create a piece of art. For her assemblage is fitting for this approach. “I seek to find the poetic interaction between the objects to create a striking image. I often work intuitively by pulling things out and putting them together.”
To describe the philosophy behind her art, Heidi identify with a portion of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Farm”. These are the terms that she try to remember every day.
“That is the vision, seen
As on a Sabbath walk:
of human life whose terms
Are Heaven’s and this earth’s.”
Heidi grew up as an Evangelical Protestant. She embraced the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith about 15 years ago. Her faith affects her and shows up in her work in various ways. For example, Candles are commonly used in prayer and services in the Orthodox faith. She uses a lot of candles in her work. However, about how her faith affects her, she believes “that’s more for others to say, not me.”; the onlookers see most clearly.
“I am not trying to propagandize”
When Heidi explaining what is she trying to say with her art, she says, “I am not trying to control an outcome for the viewer. I am not trying to propagandize. I am very grateful and humbled when I see the impact the art has on some people.”
Then, she showed me a comment that she received from someone who saw her show,
“…it seems appropriate to at least drop a note, to say thank you for bringing your special and quiet vision into tangible form. What you do speaks on many levels, memory and nostalgia, references to a sacred all-encompassing Presence, themes of rebirth and vision.”
In Heidi’s artwork, I see lot of dolls; I think them brought life to those pieces. At the same time, I really curious about what does she want to say with them. Heidi said she thinks they help indicate a human narrative. However, a human narrative depends what the viewer brings to it. She said she is not in control of how the piece confronts or speaks. She learns from her own work. Some pieces are still working on her.
Since I see an abundant content in Heidi’s art, I really want to know where does she find her inspirations to make her art rich and chewy. To describe her inspiration source she said, “ life experiences (love, loss, etc), nature: soil, barnacles, stars, trees, wind, blackberry brambles, birds…the Bible, poetry of Wendell Berry, William Stafford, Denise Leverto, to name just a few. Music: Innocence Mission, Emmy Lou Harris, Arvo Part. I read a lot of poetry. I somehow think my work is a bit like a poem in some ways.”
Heidi Peterson has a show at Thea’s Vintage Living this month. Corner of nw 12th and Glisan. Go and check it out!
http://www.heidipetersen.com/about.htm (Heidi Peterson’s website)