by Judith Walden
Besides awesome coffee and edibles, a trip to the Governor’s Cup this month will give art lovers the opportunity to see the work of an artist who is new to Salem. Heather N. Henry, whose show “Storytellers and Whimsical Beings” runs through March, is a recent transplant from the Midwest. Her husband is originally from the Pacific Northwest and with their children now adults and out of the house, they decided to relocate to this area. She says, ”My husband and I are very recently empty nesters, which means I now have more time on my hands than I think I’ve ever had as an adult.”
She is using her “extra” time to pursue her lifelong love of drawing and painting. Mostly self taught, Henry reports taking “as many art classes as I could” in high school, then pursuing her art education through studying art books and videos. Of developing her style she says, “ I love artists who have a unique perspective of the world and can invite you into the alternate world that they create on paper/canvas. Artists who have helped me develop my style include; Dali, Edward Gorey, Beatrix Potter, Michael Parkes and Bruegel.”
Some of these influences are immediately evident viewing Henry’s work, with its mix of realism, whimsy, and fantasy. Her preference for painting on wood adds to the effect, giving her subjects an icon-like aspect. She favors people and nature as subjects, often in combination to create a feeling of being one with nature. She says “I feel that being in natural settings, surrounded by trees, the ocean, flowers…makes us feel more alive, rejuvenated and at peace.”
She credits fantasy, mythology, literature and steampunk as sources of inspiration, with bits and pieces of those incorporated into her work. Henry says she is surrounded by creative people. Her daughter, sons, and daughters-in-law are all musicians and artists. Their support and encouragement, as well as the inspiration of being around “so many creative minds,” is a big part of the reason she is pursuing her own art.
Although this is Henry’s first show in Oregon, her experience includes being commissioned to do three murals in Independence KS, one in the children’s library, one on the walls of a youth center, and one for McDonald’s. While reporting that she enjoyed the experience of creating murals, and confessing that she tends to paint on her own walls, most of her current work is with acrylics, inks, and watercolors.
She uses paper, especially for sketches, but Henry primarily paints on wood. “I started painting on wood a few years ago and really love the feel of it. It’s very smooth and I like the beautiful wood grains to show through.” Her pieces are generally based on ideas that spring straight from her imagination, spurred by books, dreams, movies, and the beauty she sees around her daily. Henry’s work is well described by her favorite Neil Gaiman quote:
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
Her show “Storytellers and Whimsical Beings” will be at the Governor’s Cup through March. Stop in, enjoy the magic and be surprised.