Heather is both an award winning artist and art educator working in Northern Illinois. Her works are a reflection of the variety of media and techniques she has been teaching for the past 18 years as a high school visual arts educator. Although the breadth of the media and techniques she teaches made for a long and difficult journey in finding her artistic voice; it did however, influence her mixed media approach quite directly.
Process & Inspiration
My works are a collage of cut paper and acrylic paint. My preferred source for cut paper is from a variety of “women’s” publications, such as Victoria Secret catalogs and Martha Stewart Living magazine. Perhaps it is the lush colors and textures on the pages used to attract a female consumer that causes me to select these magazines, or just perhaps it is the tongue-in-cheek symbolism of cutting up these paper women and their stereotypes that I enjoy.
Regardless of the underlying reason, I truly enjoy the possibilities that these clippings offer me as a designer once they are taken out of context. Pieces of flesh become lush ripples of color and texture. Mass-produced garments and kitchen appliances cease to be objects and instead become line and value that I can combine with paint. I try to balance the use of cut paper and acrylic paint so that neither media is dominant. For both visual and symbolic reasons, I hope my works are a balanced marriage of the pigment applied with my own hand and the images created by an industry aimed at women that combine to create my feminist illustrations.
Some of my works are a personification of real women in my life while others are simply female personas such as the “Storyteller” or the “Free Spirit.” It is not my intention to present stereotypes of women, but rather to investigate my own beliefs and assumptions about these women. All women are multi-dimensional, yet easily labeled by others. My works are a very personal attempt to understand these women and what they mean to me.
Although my works are based on symmetry, they are created by hand and thus are as beautifully flawed and unique as the women I think of while I create them.
What is a Mandala?
The term “mandala” is a Sanskrit word that can be loosely translated as “circle.” The use of mandalas is most prevalent in the Buddhist and Hindu religions as a means of spiritual practice and meditation. However, circular designs such as these can be found in almost every religion and region of the world such as the Rose Windows in Christian churches and the dream catchers of the Native Americans. Mandalas can even be found occurring naturally in nature as seen in the flowers we enjoy to the tiny radial designs of the snowflake.
One common interpretation of the mandala is that it is a representation of our physical or spiritual world. Mandalas illustrate the idea that these worlds center on a single idea or are born of a single important element. Animals are born from eggs. The sun is the center of our universe. Many feel a singular god is responsible for all creation. No matter the interpretation, there is no denying that humans seem to be driven to create these circular designs.
Creating mandalas gives me a sense of calm and wholeness that I have only felt while holding my children. I feel a sense of peace while creating these works that makes me a stronger, more balanced woman. I also appreciate the creation as an exercise in impermanence. Just as Buddhist monks destroy their sand mandalas after completion, I also create my mandalas with the intention of parting with them through sale or gifting.
Using Mandalas in Meditation
1. Hang your mandala on a wall in front of you, preferably at eye level.
2. Sit in a comfortable cross leg position. You may find it more comfortable to sit on an elevated surface such as a pillow or cushion.
3. Lower your eye lids until they are almost closed, letting just a little light in. Focus your eyes in a forward direction. Begin by breathing slowly in through your nose, filling your diaphragm. Exhale through your mouth. Relax. Try not to focus your mind. Instead, let thoughts come and go freely but try not to hold on to any of them.
4. Now gaze at your mandala with slightly unfocused eyes.
5. Try to focus on the center of the mandala and let the design wash over you. Mandalas have the power of unity and healing, balance and wholeness. Don’t “think” about the design, rather “feel” it.
6. Set a goal to meditate with or without this meditation aide for 5 minutes each day in the beginning and work up to longer lengths of time gradually.