Alumna Studio Visit: Heidi Howard ’08

I recently had the chance to meet with SLC alumna Heidi Howard, who graduated in 2008 and now works as an artist in the MFA program at Columbia. Born and raised in Long Island City, Howard went to Reed College in Oregon and studied abroad in Italy before coming to Sarah Lawrence.“I liked the academically intense community of Reed,” Howard commented, “But I really liked that you can work on your project at Sarah Lawrence with the same intensity.” Here she studied with faculty members like Ray Siedelman, Jamie Moudud, Ursula Schnieder, Tishan Hsu, and Leah Montalto. “I’m very interested in the intersections of politics and art, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a politician,” Howard commented, and cites her time in Italy as a formative turning point in her decision to pursue a career as an artist. “At first I was resistant, my parents are both artists and had a hard time making a living, but in Florence I had a painting teacher, Marsha Steinberg, that told me I had to pursue painting. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that time,” says Howard, even though her inclination towards making art had already been established in adolescence and fostered by her parents, sound artist Liz Phillips and new music composer Earl Howard.

Sanford Biggers (in progress), left study for Allison. Photo credit: Heidi Howard

Sanford Biggers (in progress), left study for Allison. Photo credit: Heidi Howard

Monotype study for Christina Sukhgian Houle. Photo credit: Audrey Irving

Monotype study for Christina Sukhgian Houle. Photo credit: Audrey Irving

During her time at Sarah Lawrence, too, Howard worked for the Brooklyn Rail and formed a close working relationship with publisher Phong Bui. “I consider my time at the Rail a big part of my art education. Phong taught two classes to us while I was there, on Cubism and on ways of portraying the figure, and has always been so supportive and knowledgeable,” recounts Howard.

Now in her second year of the MFA program at Columbia University, Howard usually gets to the studio by 9:00 am and leaves around midnight, having a packed schedule for the intensive program and studio practice. Her influences in art are varied, but have a through-line of the personal, the temporal, and the political. “In terms of dead people, I look to Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Vuillard. Even some Renaissance paintings, Boticelli’s ‘Spring’ is in many ways my favorite painting,” she explains, also mentioning books she’s reading lately like The Circle by Dave Eggers and Taive Selasi’s Ghana Must Go.

Photo credit: Heidi Howard, study for Allison

Photo credit: Heidi Howard, study for Allison

People she’s been exposed to through the program at Columbia, too, have proven to be invaluable resources in her process. Among instructors, mentors, or visiting artists coming to her studio, she counts Chitra Ganesh, Sanford Biggers, Dana Shutz, Elizabeth Peyton, Shirin Neshat, Tomas Vu and Gregory Amenoff as some of her key influencers. Howard works primarily in oils, but has experimented with various printmaking techniques, as well. “I’m always running around in scale, I think because you get a different feeling from different people,” Howard explains. “But conceptually and formally it may be good for me to work in one scale, and it is just gesturally great to work in a large scale as I often do, although everything gets more expensive.”

Heidi in her studio, print of Patrice Helmar. Photo credit: Audrey Irving

Heidi in her studio, print of Patrice Helmar. Photo credit: Audrey Irving

She most often works either from photographs or having her subjects sit for her, depending on the person and their level of comfort in an art studio setting. “I always work from photographs I’ve taken myself. I feel that with found photos, I can travel less in terms of how I paint them,” Howard elaborates. “So I will usually take 200 or 300 photos of a person in 5 or 6 different poses, and work from there.” One can readily see in her works interjections of the personal and symbolic with the incorporation patterns and mementos, and recently spliced in Facebook or Instagram excerpts.

Left: Study for Katie, Right: Katie Kline, her photos, crawfish boil at "Surviving Sandy" curated by Phong Bui in Brookyn.

Left: Study for Katie, Right: Katie Kline, her photos, crawfish boil at “Surviving Sandy” curated by Phong Bui in Brookyn.

For more information and images visit her website.

Featured image: Top: Inside the studio, Bottom: Liz Perez in progress. Photo credit: Audrey Irving

 

 

 

Audrey Irving is a junior student, Seattle native, and Virgo (Scorpio rising). She studies Art and Visual Culture, works at a contemporary art gallery in Brooklyn, and is majorly obsessed with pugs.

Be first to comment