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Heather Heitzenrater: Magnifying the Intricate Distortions of Surrealism

Curious Matters

Despite growing up in a town that offered very little in terms of exposure to the arts, Heather Heitzenrater’s life at home was filled with enough creativity to carve out a path to the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in art. An initial connection with illustration, watercolor and ink-based experimentation took the backseat as Heather’s fascination with oil as a medium began to take center stage.

"Inner Strife" by Heather Heitzenrater, oil on panel

Having graduated in 2015, by now her work has been exhibited at the Erie Art Museum and Boxheart Gallery. Heather was also featured in a number of publications and, at the tender age of 25, she maintains a position as Chairperson for the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. She regularly showcases her work around the city and shares a space at Radiant Hall with her husband in the Susquehanna area.

Untitled Painting by Heather Heitzenrater, oil on panel

When people see my work, at first they assume that I am older than I am, and are shocked when they meet me,” Heather talks about the challenges of being a young artist in a modern society. She continues to struggle with being taken seriously as a young artist, and her desire to support family financially with her craft.

Heather broadens her reach into the creative realm by teaching workshops around the city and dabbling in set design when time allows for it. But more importantly, for the last four years, she has been carefully expanding her Threshold collection, which reflects a world of chaos and curiosity.

"Map of Kubla Khuan" by Heather Heitzenrater, oil on panel, 2018

Mirror, Mirror…

Her fascination with science fiction and fantasy novels has lured her mind into the endless possibilities beyond faraway lands that lie waiting on the pages of her favorite books.

“These portals leave me completely spellbound, and I would imagine myself stumbling upon one, with wonders waiting on the other side.”

It’s a world many avid book readers are quite familiar with, a place one can go to escape reality. It beckons with its allure of mystery and enchantment and provides Heather with the vision to create her very distinctive pieces.

Untitled Painting by Heather Heitzenrater, oil on panel

In a studio space she shares with her husband (artist Christopher Boring), Heather incorporates the reflective material Mylar into her work. Her early experiences of painting reflections did prove to be somewhat of a challenge, which is why she decided to focus on it more. For a while, she painted any reflective object she could find – bottles, cans, foil, water surface – before she discovered Mylar. “I love how it distorts colors and reflections to create a surreal world,” she says. It speaks of intangibility and presents a possible portal that binds the world we know with something that is otherworldly of sorts.

"Ethereal Reign" by Heather Heitzenrater, oil on panel

In order to capture each figure and its reaction to this alternate universe, the artist has to understand how to tap into a variety of emotional responses. Heather’s source of inspiration involves sculpting and installations that involve mirrors. What better way to observe oneself, human behavior, and how it can be translated? Her work begins as a random idea until she discovers its underlying sources of inspiration, that flow from her personal life and the events that take place around her.

Her dramatic, sympathetic, and colorful work comes to life with bold strokes and intense focus on capturing a sudden moment that, perhaps, could transport the viewer out of their current situation for just a few seconds.

All images copyright of Heather Heitzenrater.

You can view more work by Heather on her Instagram and website.

Article written by Wynand Conrad

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