Lee Heinen Paintings and Pastels Artist Statement
About the Artist
Artist Statement

Artist Statement

Art is a construct. My art is an effort to distill and communicate in sensuous language that which cannot easily be expressed in words. Whatever the subject matter, I intend it to be an animated and life affirming expression in paint: an elemental response to the natural world, constructed with color and form. For me, the emotional content of art is essential, the intellectual, desirable.

Lee Heinen

Abstracts Artist Statement

Many painters paint over their old canvases; it's a pragmatic way to recycle old work that no longer excites and motivates the artist. But for me, there's the promise of something else. When layering new work over old, the sum of the parts can be greater than the whole. In this series, I've turned to old canvases that no longer interest me and I've used them as ghostly understructures for new works. The depth that's hinted at by the underpainting creates a synergy between the old and new - lending some structure to the free, which excites me as an artist. Working on a recycled canvas, liberate me to experiment with palette knives, rollers, collage, feather dusters, combs, old socks and the insertion of the occasional button from my mother's button box.  An old painting can contribute to the architecture and texture of a new work, resulting in greater complexity and variety. The theme of these diverse paintings is therefore the opposition between the underlying geometry and the overpainting. This is more than indulgence in happy accident; it's a dialogue between history and presence, and between form and freedom.

Lee Heinen

American Family Album Series

In today's digital world, photo albums are quickly becoming a thing of the past. My intent is to have these very material paintings tell a story of passing generations similar to an old-fashioned American family album, sometimes with a touch of humor. For generations, people preserved the same kinds of subjects in family albums: birthday parties, holidays, vacations and portraits. I inherited such albums myself. But we're no longer preserving our photos into a form that we can feel, handle and pass down to our descendants. All things manmade are ephemeral, but these images won't die when the motherboard does.

Although many of these paintings are based on my own albums, the faces are not individualized and are meant to represent everyman's family album. I like it when people look at one of these works and say, “Oh, that looks like my uncle,” or “That's just like Janie when she was little!” I wish to evoke the viewer's personal narrative.

The composition and subject matter are what draw me to particular photographs; however, these are not literal renderings. They're edited and altered from the original photos. (I prefer working from black and white photos, because it frees me from the influence of the original colors.) My concern is with what the bodies are communicating to us, and with the patterns and values in the painting. Everything - from the shape of the hair to the clothing and shadows - forms part of the pattern. There's even expressiveness in the angle of a head that's brought into relief by a simplified background.

I chose to present this idea in a contemporary style. As with poetry, I try to be concise, to eliminate the extraneous and allow the viewer to fill in details. The subjects are flattened and simplified, recalling the work of Milton Avery and Alex Katz. I'm drawn to minimalism, perhaps because of my Quaker background. The Quaker aesthetic, from meeting houses to their clothing and speech, is unadorned and, in its way, pure. This style also highlights a theme that's important to me: the solitariness of humanity. We ultimately wrestle with the devil alone, and one can detect that essential isolation in many of these figures.

Lee Heinen

Altered Course

What began as the family album series has morphed into observations of the broader society, particularly noting our obsession with technology and the social dynamic (or lack of) it fosters. One of my earliest family album paintings, called "Alone Together" was created before the prevalence of social media, but speaks to the same idea. Although in close proximity, each of the figures is absorbed in their own world just as they are in the recent work, "The Family That Tweets Together…" Could it be that our electronics have exacerbated a tendency that has always been there?

Lee Heinen

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