Massive amounts of expressive detail fill the paneled divisions in the work of artist Andrea Joyce Heimer. But don’t let this description fool you, as Heimer doesn’t make comic strips; she creates maximalist paintings characterized by voluptuous figures and multi-dimensional scenes of concurrent action. Within the same work, a couple stretches to a workout video while a woman seemingly masturbates with a teddy bear, a man dissects a rabbit, and another figure sews a blouse. When it comes to action, Heimer’s painting seems to relish in the idea that “more is more.”
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In a sense, Heimer’s paintings are indeed similar to comics, from their highly narrative nature to the process behind their creation: “Painting ideas come to me in words first; I tend to tell the story to myself in my head over and over before I sit down to paint it,” the artist tells Creators. “Afterwards, the story becomes the title of the painting—it’s a way to ensure the story continues to be a part of the finished piece.”
The titles Heimer refers to are far from any sort of painting standard. Rather than Untitled (Blank) or a descriptive, but ambiguous title, the artist opts for the likes of My Sister’s Bush Was Glorious And Full And The Color of Campfire Flames While Mine, Still Struggling Through Puberty, Was Patchy And Mousy And In Her Presence I Felt Like an Unfinished Drawing or A Long Time Ago I Had A Religious Experience While Camping In The Big Belt Mountains In Montana When Lightning Lit Everyone Up And I Swear I Could See Our Insides And They Were All The Same, Pink Beating Things Packed Inside Us Like Christmas Presents.
These aren’t overly didactic titles used for the sake of being humorous or satirical; these are the exact ideas and narratives Heimer hopes to portray in her works: “Because I am telling very specific stories, I think the descriptive titles are important to the viewer. In my mind, any ambiguity experienced by the viewer should be intentional on my part,” an approach that certainly deviates from artists who relish in the uncalculated ambiguity that permeates their works.
One of the catalysts for Heimer’s lust to portray narratives in her paintings derives from a personal circumstance: “Being adopted has had a huge effect on me and my work. I was adopted as a baby and don’t know anything about my birth parents, family, or circumstances,” the artist reveals.
“I think not knowing some of this basic information about myself is what attracts me to both painting and storytelling; both are ways of recording history. I also think my adoption has impacted my ability to connect with others in certain ways, or at least has made me more interested in how people belong to each other, the mystery of which has always been a main subject in my work.”
Andrea Joyce Heimer currently has a solo exhibition at Brooklyn gallery Hometown until March 12. An archive of her paintings can be viewed in detail on her website.
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