Andrea Joyce Heimer, an artist and former horse trainer, paints folksy figures who live side by side, yet are isolated. Ms. Heimer’s suburban subjects cook, sew, exercise and sleep in rooms that evoke cramped dollhouses, but their blank expressions convey an unsettling strain. The coronavirus pandemic now has the artist living out that very scenario at her home and studio in Ferndale, Wash., a small city almost 100 miles north of Seattle.
Each of Andrea Joyce Heimer’s acrylic paintings begins as a written story. Even if the viewer isn’t able to know every detail of her narratives, the painter’s work gives us the chance to piece her myths ourselves. The artist offers some personal reasons why this process is so integral to her practice.
In detailed tableaux, the painter, who works in Washington State, adapts the stylized red-and-black figures that adorn ancient Greek vases to explore a personal dilemma in epic terms. Adopted at birth, Heimer was recently given the choice to learn the names of her birth parents, thanks to a 2015 bill passed in her native Montana.
The title of one of Andrea Joyce Heimer’s paintings is so long that Hometown had to bunch some of the words together on the checklist, deleting the spaces between them. Frequently exceeding twenty words and comprising one or more complete sentences, the titles of the works in this exhibition—her first solo show in New York—express sources of the artist’s broad-ranging envy.
Memory is a useful faculty in a painter’s toolbox. It can be used to conjure the color of an emotion or deployed in the pursuit of perspective. It is the mind’s Instagram filter, tinting the images of our past. In the case of Washington-based artist Andrea Joyce Heimer, whose new exhibit, A Jealous Person, is currently on view at Hometown Gallery in Brooklyn (her first New York solo exhibition), memory is wielded as a powerful device for navigating neuroses borne of a set of formative experiences worthy of the Tenenbaum family, and with an equally pleasing palette to boot.
Of all the deadly human sins, envy is perhaps the most unavoidable. It makes us mourn the things we never had in the first place while reminding us of what we have to loose. In “A Jealous Person”, Andrea Joyce Heimer’s new exhibition, the artist has made narrative, quilt-like paintings that year for some sense of firm identity. Her complex renderings of flattened domestic interiors and natural landscapes are psychological mini dramas. And there titles, though verbose, are deeply personal.
In advance of this weekend's Outsider Art Fair in New York City, I spoke with Andrea Joyce Heimer about her painting practice, her writing practice, and the beauty in people laughing at her work. Heimer is a self-taught painter who grew up in Montana and now lives and works in Washington state.