Monday, June 14, 2010

Julie Heffernan's Self-Portrait

The “Self-Portrait” is not only the woman centered in the picture plane but the entire canvas. Each of Heffernan’s paintings is compulsively constructed like that of a surreal automatic drawing, rendering a multiplicity of images like journal entries: the fruit canopies, knotted forests, ghostly wallpaper and vignettes encased in thought bubbles that float around the figure’s head. At the very least, her “self” extends to the canvas edge; at most, it cannot be contained. The amount of detail poured into each painting nearly overflows with life, and invites you in.

Her paintings are a constant dilemma of opposites between - the gorgeous and grotesque, attraction and repulsion. The series Booty amasses the spoils of war. It presents us with a bounty of enormous amounts of both wealth and waste of resources, energy and lives. Yet, the figure does not stoop under the weight of it all, but holds
herself upright among the surrounding foe, heavy ornaments and animal corpses with the most extraordinary grace.

Like the Old Masters that her work evokes, Julie Heffernan’s paintings give us a lot to look at, a wealth of sheer visual entertainment. Burnished with a pearly gloss concocted from a unique recipe of intelligence, fairy tale, art history and high fashion, each image engages us for a long time, and compels us to move closer, then further away , then closer again – as opposed to those paintings that we feel we know perfectly well, or well enough, from across the room.
-Francine Prose

Julie Heffernan, "Self Portrait as Booty" 2007, Oil on canvas, 68 1/2 x 65 inches

Julie Heffernan was born in 1956 and received her MFA from Yale University.
She has had numerous one-person exhibitions around the country and has shown
internationally. She has received a Lila Acheson Wallace award, NY Foundation for the Arts award, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fulbright-Hayes Grant.

Image is courtesy of P.P.O.W. Gallery

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