by Catherine Zinser
We are a storytelling species. We love to read novels and poetry, watch movies, television shows, and plays, and listen to music; we are especially captivated by stories passed down from friends and family. This oral tradition has existed since man first developed a standardized language. Folk art is the visual representation of these stories, where rich narratives unfold beautifully in paint, wood, textiles, and clay.
From November 22 to December 28, 2014, the stories of rural Montanans will be told here in Austin, Texas, at Yard Dog Gallery. Feeling like an outsider in her hometown of Great Falls, Montana, self-taught artist Andrea Joyce Heimer biked through the streets as a child, watching the lives of her neighbors unfold, catching details overlooked by most. Snippets of these dramas unravel in her paintings, revealing only part of the real story as it was processed by the young artist and recalled years later.
Two tips. Spend time looking at each image. There is an extraordinary amount of intricate details throughout each painting. Part of the artist’s meditative process, the wallpapered background and patterned carpet and textiles are ripe with symbolic meaning. Storm clouds and thunderbolts hover in the background of several pieces, a reminder that life is unpredictable and can change in an instant.
Don’t miss the titles. Full of imagery, the titles are meant to complement the paintings but could stand alone as poetry. With these lengthy titles, Heimer’s work plays out as modern-day fables with dark undertones, anecdotes told as cautionary tales.
Folk art, outsider art, or primitive art is enchanting because it adheres to practically none of the traditional “rules” of art yet forges some of the strongest artists/viewer bonds. Heimer’s work is tremendously relatable; you will see yourself in her candid paintings and reach into your own history to formulate a narrative.