Thursday, September 13, 2007
Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone @ OCMA
Last month I went down to Newport Beach in Orange County to see the Mary Heilmann retrospective before it closed. I was hoping that, after seeing it in person, I would have a better understanding of her work. Some of the paintings did really pop out in person—the luminous early blue/green/white ones, the pink and black punk rock ones, and the beautiful, recent Surfing on Acid one (seen at left)—and I noticed the artist’s facile moving back and forth among media (so facile, indeed, that I was always left wondering what and why).
But even after visiting the show, I still feel that many of Heilmann’s works are like blank stares, unreadable by me. They confront me with a "so what?" I still don’t think I get what she’s doing or why others are so drawn to it. However, I do feel like I know for sure that she is a phenomenal teacher (Laura Owens and Monique Prieto are often given as examples of her talent in this area). I understand from these paintings that she was always “going for it”, and that attitude must make her an amazing role model. Supreme confidence in one’s work, even if you aren’t getting approbation from the outside, is one of the most important lessons to pass on. Hope I can learn from it too.
The show's closed now at the Orange County Museum of Art, but you can see it in Houston, Ohio, and New York. More info here.
(image above is Surfing on Acid, oil on canvas, 2005)