As if the suburbs didn’t have a bad enough rap, Andrea Heimer goes and takes a delightfully sardonic jab at the lives of its residents with her upcoming solo show: Suburban Mythology.
Her cheery small scale paintings are humorously dark while undressing the facade of normal white-picket fence wholesomeness in a perverse and yet strangely appealing way. With long painting titles that read like the opening lines of a David Sedaris essay it’s not hard to believe that her therapist checks her website for new work before sessions. Or that her story boarded strange tales that deal in adult topics – told in childlike tones is attracting collectors like Paul Simon.
HM: It’s so crazy that you got in touch with us to cover your solo show, because during the Juried Show at Parlor Gallery this past November I was checking out your work. There are so many fun elements in the details of your paintings. I was saying to a friend of mine,“Couldn’t you see these paintings hanging in one of the rooms on that show GIRLS?”
AH: You are the second person to say that.
HM: They would be so perfect! Knowing the personality of those characters – I think they would be drawn to work that carried a sarcastic response to where someone grew up.
AH: Especially the Montana stuff, right? They are extra weird.
Heimer is referring to the paintings that depicts memories of her childhood spent in Great Falls, Montana. A time she recalls being “mostly unhappy”, “disconnected from family and feeling like an alien resident in my own community.” She spent most of her time riding her bike around the neighborhood observing others and collecting stories that she would later use as inspiration for this series.
HM: Your paintings have long, matter-of-a fact titles; are these based on experiences that you’ve had living in the burbs?
AH: I’m inspired by real things that happened, something a friend told me or things I went through. In my neighborhood there were people having affairs, people who believed in UFO’s. It’s a little bit real, a little bit hyperbole, a little bit my own neurosis. Sometimes it’s a little memory of something weird my family said or did. I have to see the picture very clearly in my head before I begin to paint.
I’ve had people come up to me and say “I know that street” or “I know those people.” So suburbia must be weird universally.
HM: Is this the style that you think defines you?
AH: I think this is it. Before I started painting I was messing around with screen printing – pop arty things. But I never felt like they were mine or what I was trying to say. A lot of the paintings do deal with dark themes, so I try to find something humorous about the situation then mesh them together. I love that people forgive me for not being able to paint perspective, animals and a straight line…”
HM: Perfection would be wrong for paintings about stories that are so gratifyingly imperfect. I’d love to know the back story of the painting where you depict a guy running over a half-naked women.
AH: That one is called, “Otto Johnson’s Car Was A Chick Magnet”. She’s not being run over, she’s making out with the car – if you look on the ground there is a little tiny condom next to her and her panties are off.
HM: She’s really going for it.
AH: Yeah. When I felt really trapped in my environment I could not wait to get a driver’s license. Since then I’ve been really into cars and the guys driving them…it’s about freedom. I love that painting, it was the first time I got to paint a tiny vagina. I got really excited about how it turned out.
HM: Were you sitting by your paintings during the Juried show?
AH: Yes. Wait…why? Did you just ignore me?
HM: Ignore is such an awful word. I thought it might have been you, but then embarrassment took over. There was no adult way to introduce myself after I’d stood there for so long laughing with a friend while pointing at those tiny vagina’s.
AH: Aw, you should have. No need to be embarrassed, I still get excited about painting little penis’s – because they’re sooo tiny.
HM: That being said – who do you imagine is buying your paintings?
AH: People with really good taste.
*Suburban Mythology opens at Parlor Gallery on February 1st until March 8th, 2014