by Valerie Valentine
Thanks to Christmas merchandisers, reds and greens are erupting everywhere. Artist Heidi Henderson has reclaimed these colors, saving them from commercialization and injecting vibrancy and new meaning into traditional holiday hues. Her subject and medium blend seamlessly in her recent series, The Wood and I.
Her show at Bloomington Art Center’s Atrium Gallery reveals a deep connection
to the natural world. Using found wood doors as surface, Henderson portrays
a fantastical wilderness. She celebrates the earth with vitality, even as our
gardens prepare to sleep.
nature’s time of hibernation and death, Henderson induces the inevitable
fecundity of spring. Mysterious, shrouded females dance with flower-faced men
in a joyful, ritualistic fertility dance. Ribbons are woven into the paintings,
and toucans pluck at ripe fruit. The rich color honors Frida Kahlo’s sunny
Tropical plant life leaps off the wood surfaces. Textural swirls of acrylic
and oil paint creates kinetic loops and twists. The psychedelic movements of
Henderson’s gestures animate flowerbeds, bringing them to life. Sprouts
are surrounded by sprightly figures, plucked from the artist’s dreams
Henderson addresses a challenge that becomes her successful premise: working
with the grain and texture of wood. Though the doors are often smooth surfaces,
decorative cutouts of the wood create negative spaces and recesses. Paint smeared
against the grain lightly feathers its consistency, resulting in an ethereal
“A Slice of Life” is an interesting study in materials. Several
panels—a jigsaw of wooden blocks—are painstakingly hinged together,
with pulsating flowers, weird insects and butterflies popping out of their centers.
The train of images flows like thoughts in the stream of consciousness.
In another work, a tree sculpture doubles as an easel for rotating painted blocks.
The effect of the slow movement mimics leaves swaying in the wind. The ever-changing
visuals allude to the growth and change of a tree’s fruit and foliage
through the seasons. The dry, bare wood is the tree’s skeleton: a framework
for what once thrived. Henderson nods to the recyclable character of this versatile
natural resource. In executing her creative vision, the artist effectively communicates
an intimate relationship with trees.
Bloomington Art Center is a valuable community resource. It’s open late,
and offers studios, two exhibition galleries, a performing arts center and art
Heidi Henderson’s exhibit runs through Dec. 31. Bloomington Art
Center is located at 1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd. They are open Mon.–Fri.
8 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sun. 1–10 p.m.