By Leslie Simon
This fall, the Arvada Center and Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art are proud to partner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the seminal 2009 book Colorado Abstract: Paintings and Sculpture with exhibits highlighting the history and continuing tradition of abstraction by local artists in the state. The Arvada Center exhibit Colorado Abstract +10: A Survey highlights the work of 70 local abstract artists, and opens September 12 with a reception and exhibition discussion with book co-authors Mary Voelz Chandler and Michael Paglia. In the first installment of a series of conversations with featured artists, we spoke with Heather Patterson about her influences, process, and advice for young artists.
- What was your journey to abstract art like?
Growing up, I had a fascination for water, and the ocean in particular. In high school, I painted very realistic looking dolphins underwater. When I went to college, I quickly learned that this was very kitsch and not going to cut it for art school! My professors introduced me to the Abstract Expressionist movement. One of them gave me a 5-foot-long bamboo stick and a jar of ink on the ground and told me I was only allowed to learn to draw with that. I quickly fell in love with gesturing and letting drips happen, and it all went downhill from there. The sloppier and thicker the paint, the better. I used to go through entire tubes of oil paints on one painting! Some of the guest artists that came through our studios didn’t even want to walk on my studio floor because it was always so saturated with wet oil paint. I loved it. It’s interesting looking back over the years that water and the landscape still certainly play into my work, but in a completely different and more evolved way.
- What is your process in creating new work?
I always work on several things at once…usually about 5-7 large panels at once. One reason for this is that I absolutely can’t stand waiting for paint to dry. I like the immediacy of going from one to the next. Also, by working this way, I build up a body of work together and can see how each piece relates to the next. It’s nice to have time to look at them all together and see how I can finish each one uniquely.
Heather’s work was part of our Summer 2018 exhibition – In Sight In Site: Murals.Watch her in action!
- Who are the other artists that inspire you?
So many! When I was in school I really fell in love with de Kooning, Anselm Kiefer, Rauschenburg, Eva Hesse, Rothko, Lee Krasner, Alice Neel. Now I’m loving Heather Day, Inka Essenhigh, Tara Donovan, Dana Schutz and so many others that I know I’m forgetting at the moment.
- What do you want people see when they view your non-objective art?
I think that’s one of the great things about non-objective art, people can see or feel what they want to. The longer a collector owns and lives with a piece, the more they see in it. I personally really enjoy when someone is talking with me about the work and totally explains the elements I was trying to portray. Even though my work is abstracted, I get a lot of my imagery from realistic images of topographic maps, weather patterns, climate systems, animal migration patterns, and elements in nature (water, lichen, plant life). Some people may just see color, patterns, and shapes and that’s ok! But I really love when someone is able to get something from my work on a deeper level that speaks of our environment.
- What cool projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
Well, I just finished a 200-foot linear mural in Boulder commissioned by the city that can be viewed at Broadway and Basalm. I also just finished another mural that I collaborated on with fellow artist Kelly Peters in the main lobby of the newly renovated bus station and One Snowmass luxury condos in Snowmass Village. It was commissioned through Styleworks Interiors and Walker Fine Art. Upcoming, I will be a part of the Loveland Open Studios for two weekends in October if you would like to stop by! Then in February 2020, I will be in a three-person exhibition at Space Annex with (Arvada Center Director of Galleries and Curator) Collin Parson and Jodie Roth Cooper. We will have our individual work on display as well as some experimental collaboration work which will combine light, sculpture, and painting.
- What advice do you have for new artists out there?
Work hard, play hard! But seriously hard work and dedication will get you where you want to be. The art world is a tough one- don’t give up- just keep doing what you love and working for it. Having some sort of business sense also helps. It’s about as foreign to most artists’ nature as can be, but if you have some business sense, it will make this “art life” so much easier. Also, play hard because it’s only going to work if you are happy doing what you love to do.