Co-Curator Q & A with Heidi Johnson

Artist Heidi Johnson with What does the Fox Say? at Flinn Gallery


The Flinn Gallery has been thrilled to have this body of work in our current exhibit, Heidi Johnson, Animal Attraction.

The public response has been sensational, especially during the difficult time of this pandemic. Please see our “Questions & Answers with Heidi” below, as she reveals much about her art, life and influences with Karen Sheer, Co-Curator of the exhibition.

KS: As an artist, what inspires you? 

HJ: I am often struck by an idea for a painting visually. For example, I will be walking through the woods or a park and the light will produce this intense atmosphere where I am aware of being singularly alive at that moment. All of the previous time spent alive, all of the emotions crystallize in that moment in this naturalistic setting, illuminated somehow. The idea of all times being layered into one becomes fore-fronted into your own specific consciousness. All textures, tones, and details become overwhelmingly important. Haha, it sounds like a psychedelic mushroom trip, yes? Well, being an artist for me is like living 24/7 HDTV 3-D vision. The trick for me is to find the right combinations of visual images to convey my feelings or ideas at that time. I am always inspired by  the myriad details of the natural world.

KS: What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

HJ: My favorite thing about being an artist and being in my studio in process is that each day is an inquiry and a possibility for growth and development. Each day is a potential to grow into an awareness through one’s process of something new, a new way of thinking or being. It’s very important to me that I can communicate with people in ways other than they are used to or is the standard accepted way of communicating ideas. I really want people to open their minds to different ways of expressing their emotional state. The painting might contain a bear, a camper, and a flamingo…but what does this combination bring up for the viewer?

KS: How is your personality specifically reflected in the work?

HJ: My personality is directly reflected in the work in the myriad detail and rendering of objects. It is through this process of rendering and defining an object, dog, flower, etc. that the actual content of a piece is revealed to me through the process. I do a lot of arranging of composition and painting of minutiae, when the overarching idea of the painting reveals itself in the shakedown of idea hierarchies in the work. It’s like this in my life as well, I aim for one idea, but the journey to achieve whatever that is, becomes so important to my own growth. Basically, I will try to micromanage and stage-direct every bloody thing, but in the end real life takes over.

KS: What current trends are you following in the contemporary art scene?

HJ: I don’t follow any trends really, in the art world. I pay attention to work that is striking emotionally, no matter what it is, ceramics, film, installation, minimalistic, public art, etc. I appreciate work that deviates from the contemporary fashionable styles that are being shown in galleries. I do say “fashionable styles”, because each year produces a bumper crop of very similar styles and ways of working, almost a copycat phenomenon. Whereas, I will always eschew this trendiness in favor of the outliers who take chances…way more interesting.

KS: What is your favorite part of the artistic process?

HJ: I would say there are three favorite parts of my process. The first part is the inception of the idea where I am drawing together all of these disparate images, and planning out placement and how the images interact. There is a lot of anticipation in this step. The second favorite part is where, I am deeply entrenched, painting light into everything and stretching the space to see what these ideas and images yield. The third, is when I AM STUMPED, and have to make a big move or risk that hopefully saves the painting from the dumpster and I experience a huge surprise and learn something new! It is when the process surprises me and reveals a route and solution that I had not previously thought of!


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