VISUAL ARTS | “There’s too much ordinary in this world”: The elemental visions of Heather Garcia

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It doesn’t require an art expert or even an aficionado to appreciate painter Heather Garcia. Her imagery arrests the eye, plain and simple.

A while back, reviewing a Theatre in the Round production, I stepped into the back lobby at intermission and Garcia’s exhibit stopped me cold. Lobby artwork tends to be nice enough, easy on the eyes and not much more. This, though, was artistry one had to drink in. Rich colors. Ingenious concepts. All of it elemental. Down-to-earth visions brilliantly rendered.

Garcia, a Minneapolis native, uses assorted tools including lead, charcoal, conte crayons, and ink; currently, she’s exploring acrylic paint. She’s studied at the University of Minnesota and the Edina Art Center, but she’s principally self-taught. Her debut exhibit, at the government center in downtown Minneapolis, took place—incredibly enough—when she was only eight years of age. Since then, she’s exhibited in venues from St. Cloud to Brooklyn. “I’ve gained a lot of momentum,” says Garcia. “I’ve had great feedback about my paintings, which has really fueled my creativity.”

Garcia’s work is now on display, through May 4, at the Seward/University Pizza Lucé.

How did you come by such rich imagery?
The imagery used in my paintings comes mostly from my imagination, though my husband and I love to travel and my eye always picks up details that I just have to use. I take a lot of pictures when we go to Mexico just so I can look back on them during uninspired times and recharge my imagination. I’ve always drawn with a sense of whimsy and playfulness. There’s too much ordinary in this world. Why would I want to paint something exactly as it is, when what it could be is so unique? I was afraid of color when I started. I was intimidated by trying to figure out what colors go together. I took a drawing class at the University of Minnesota and my teacher tried to steer me towards more muted colors and earth tones. I liked what I produced in class, but the instant I saw Franz Marc’s work, I had to follow his lead.

How did this new exhibit come about?
My exhibit at Pizza Lucé came about thanks to Theatre in the Round. The man who schedules the artist rotation at Pizza Lucé saw my work at the theater and contacted me. I wasn’t quite prepared for a show, but was able to finish six new pieces in time for this show.

How do you feel about your success?
Well, success is a funny term. I consider myself lucky that I am able to make a go at what I love to do. With each new show, I’ve been excited to see my works up.

What’s next?
I plan on building my collection over the spring and summer and trying to get them into more places. I’d love to make prints that I can sell. I also recently took a block printing class and would like to work on making cards with that technique. It’s such a fun time right now. I’ve had great feedback and some sales, but I’m still going along just thinking of new ways to get out there and show people what I’ve created.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

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