Interview Heidi Petersen, the artist gives new life to old memories

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.”

Art Philosophy

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:

The possibility

of human life whose terms

Are Heaven’s and this earth’s.”

Faith background

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.”

About Dolls

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!

Reference: (Heidi Peterson’s website)


4 thoughts on “Interview Heidi Petersen, the artist gives new life to old memories

  1. It’s cool that you were able to interview an artist whose work we had contemplated on in class! Her work is so intriguing, and it has a mysterious beauty about it. I really liked the quote saying that art speaks faster than words, and how that connected later with her saying she does not want to control what the piece says to any viewer. I love her use of candles as well – it’s such a fragile medium, and once lit the piece will never be quite the same. There is so much to be gained from contemplating her work!

  2. I also really resonated with what she said about not trying to force a message upon her work or “propagandize” it before letting the viewers themselves come up with what it could mean. I think that really speaks into a lot of what we have been talking about in our class about letting our work have it’s own integrity, and the more I see the artist interviews, the more that i see this idea as a consistent part of what these artists believe. Good stuff, Pan! You’re writing voice is never dull!

  3. I found the fist quote about art being faster then language something I hadn’t really thought about much though it is so true you can look at a picture or art piece and get information from and about it quicker then you would if someone described it to you. I loved learning more about Heidi Patterson’s work it is interesting to see how she works with found objects when making her art. Thank you for interviewing her I enjoyed learning more about her.

  4. Thank you for sharing Peterson’s work for us. I like her use of the candle, I also use wax and candles, of course not in her way. I don’t think anyone of us would be able to translate her art in the same way. We all have our own story and our story influences how we view her work. For instance, the piano piece we saw at the Tigard Center would mean something for everyone who sees it; if you had a ‘play’ piano as a child or if you never saw one before, the interpretation is their own. That is why I like her art. What she makes tells a story about as many people who view her—that equals a lot of stories.

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