This past week I was able to visit artist Heather Lewis in her studio in Malvern Hills, a rather pastoral mid-century neighbor in west Asheville. Heather moved from Knoxville to Asheville in the summer of 2007. Originally, she began her art career in Trinidad where she was inspired by her nighttime view of oil refineries. Struck by the light from the flares she watched how the resulting shadows danced across the landscape. At the time Heather captured those with paint in her sketchbook.
Following Trinidad she spent seven years producing decorative pottery to sell until she found the factory style of creating uninspiring. Seeking to explore and nurture her creativity she pursued getting her BFA and MFA while in Scotland. Then in Knoxville she started teaching drawing classes at a community college. Teaching was an opportunity for her to revisit artistic concepts. Rethinking perspective along with shadows and light brought her back full circle to where she began painting in Trinidad.
Today, she applies all her past experiences into her work. Using stencils to apply pattern to large canvases draws from her experience in adding design to pottery. She experiments with layering her stencils in a way that creates light, shadow and movement across space creating perspective and foreground. Currently, she is part of a group show in New York at the Hunter College’s Times Square Gallery. The exhibit is called Smoke+Mirrors/Shadows+Fog and features 16 international artists who use low tech means to create stirring illusions.
One of her favorite exhibits from that show featured an artist who put together a miniature train in a dark room. The train had LED torches on it. While moving through a maze of crystal and reflective objects it threw shadows across the walls distorting and changing the space constantly.
Heather continues to evolve her art and re-examine traditional understandings of drawing. Part of this she does while teaching. Currently, she teaches in three places; a variety of classes at AB Tech including drawing, design and art appreciation – an experimental drawing class at Warren Wilson – through UNCA she teaches art at a men’s prison in Spruce Pine.
What’s next? Heather will be featured in an upcoming show at the Eyedrum in Atlanta. The show is about “light” in artwork. And in her next evolution as an artist she is hoping to experiment with photography and stop motion to capture shadows and how they move across different landscapes.
Photos and writing by: Troy Winterrowd