One of our goals is to showcase various people who do great things with Aurora Mills salvage. I had the pleasure of talking with artist Heidi Petersen about her work and inspiration. She was kind enough to write about it for this blog.
OLD THINGS by Heidi Petersen
I’m drawn to the poetic qualities of time worn objects. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I grew up on a farm and witnessed the beautiful yet gritty cycle of life. Maybe I began to appreciate the process of decay and then what comes next…new life. Or it could be simply a matter of liking old things; they’re comforting somehow.
I’ve always had an inclination for disarranging objects and finding new dynamic juxtapositions to create a piece of art. Assemblage is fitting for this approach. I seek to find the poetic interaction between the objects to create a striking image. Lessons is made from half of an old round table, the keys of a piano, blackberry vines and flower wall decor. The door, in the piece called Homecoming, I found at Aurora Mills while rummaging around in their upstairs floor. The architectural salvage is always inspiring for me. I love to visit Aurora Mills to get ideas.
I collect a lot of “things” in my studio. Old doors, millwork, chairs, dolls, metal decorative work, candles, branches, the list goes on. I often work intuitively by pulling things out and putting them together. Other times I go on the hunt for something I know I need for an idea that has formulated in my mind. Sometimes friends and family leave odd gifts at my door. Often those things get incorporated into a piece.
There’s a song, by the band Innocence Mission, with the words: “Birds of every wing shall dwell within…” These birds have been showing up in my artwork as well. They have been a presence in my life since early childhood on the farm. They looped and arced in my field of vision on a daily bases. Their flight is the truest picture of joy that I know.
Living on a farm as a child, afforded me long hours in the woods: climbing trees, building forts, digging clay from the creek and watching for animals. It was a place with ample scope for the imagination and my creativity was developed and fed in this rich natural setting. I still seek that kind of setting as an adult. The farm also pairs a sense of wonder with the harsh reality of life. The invasive thorned blackberry vines are a constant battle for every farmer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s not a coincidence that they’ve also invaded several of my pieces.
I find it is difficult to articulate a succinct statement that would express my work’s scope and vision. I think it was Georges Rouault who said “Your art is your truest confession.” And that is often beyond my ability with words. I do identify with this portion of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Farm”. These are the terms I try to remember each day.
That is the vision, seen
As on a Sabbath walk:
of human life whose terms
Are Heaven’s and this earth’s.
from “The Farm” by Wendell Berry
Heidi Petersen is an assemblage artist living in Oregon City, Oregon. She is married to Bruce Petersen, a wood worker and graphic designer. They have two children, Silas and Claire. Heidi received her BS degree in drawing and painting from Biola University in 1993. She has had several solo exhibitions, three taking place at Waterstone Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Among other juried and invitational exhibitions, her work has been shown in the Sitka Invitational at the World Forestry Center in Portland. Heidi’s art has also been featured in Oregon Home Magazine. She creates her work in the upper story of a shop/ barn on their two acres.