The Drawing Room in East Hampton presents an online exhibit by artist Sue Heatley, “Southern Exposure,” now through May 25. Originally from Ohio, Heatley recalls the vast, open spaces, of the landscape before she moved to Virginia. Then, in 2004, she moved to East Hampton, where she stayed until 2018. Now again a Virginian, Heatley’s works were featured in “Singular and Serial: Contemporary Monotype and Monoprint,” by Catherine Kernan. And in 2015, juror and print expert Janice Oresman selected her work for “True Monotypes,” an exhibition at the International Print Center in New York.
How did you connect with The Drawing Room?
Years ago, when The Drawing Room first opened, I discovered it by chance. They were showing drawings by Pat Pickett and I remember the installation was impeccable. I had just moved to East Hampton and there seemed to be no art galleries, so I was excited to see them open.
A year or two later I joined their team, working administratively. It was a few beyond that when I showed the owners of the gallery, Emily Goldstein and Victoria Munroe, some of my relief prints and monotypes. They included them in a group show and, little by little, began showing my work regularly.
Describe your creative process.
I work in series, so I tend to use one kind of paper, or painting surface at a time. I use water-based and dry media for the immediacy they offer. My work is a mix of painting, drawing, printmaking, and collage. A series usually begins with very simple mark-making, or perhaps just a combination of colors I’m compelled by. I don’t make elaborate preliminary sketches. I prefer to let things evolve over time. I may work on a few compositions at once, and I often flip things around so that the orientation of a work changes in the process.
I begin to recognize forms and imagery that recall places I’ve lived in or visited. The concept of place, both physical and psychological, is a central theme. Abstracted references to the elements, flora, mapping, and boundaries come forward again and again. There is a point where I feel I’ve nailed it — the composition clicks into balance. Stopping myself is critical.
Why the title ‘Southern Exposure’?
The series of paintings on paper titled “Southern Exposure” was completed since my return to Richmond. The rag paper I chose called out to me with its luminous faint lemon tone. I immediately wanted to see what an opaque bright white paint would do on that surface. That lead to a vibrant persimmon red coupled with mottled gray and dark indigo. This was the palette for marks that recalled cloud clusters, dogwood blossoms and trails, or the many sets of steps that point to the James River, running through Richmond.
These dreamy, floating organic gatherings are anchored by solid curved forms that act as a counter point. The work felt like it had a southern subtlety to it, with spots of heat and intensity. In these paintings I recognized my new home.
What artists inspire you?
I seem to be drawn to artists whose work has nothing in common with mine — sculptors, conceptual artists, and painters working in an entirely different vein from me. There might be a very small detail —the surface of a painting, a combination of colors, a texture — that I take away with me. The inspiration for the imagery in my work comes from places — my surroundings, seasonal rhythms, and the general atmosphere I’m feeling in the world around me.
What is it like being an artist during a global pandemic?
Oddly, because studio artists crave time in their studios, the current pandemic has been pleasant in that it has allowed me to have even more time to work than usual. The down side is that I find it hard to focus in such scary times.
It was so disappointing not to be able to have an opening reception for my show at The Drawing Room. I would have loved to visit friends, give hugs, and engage in conversation. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this period in terms of new work.
What do you miss most about East Hampton?
I loved living in the Hamptons, soaking up the natural beauty of the East End, and still ache for the ocean. Two years ago, I switched things up and made Richmond my home. Being closer to family and the opportunity to devote myself to studio work full time finally lured me back. Now, I visit East Hampton a few times a year, for shows at The Drawing Room, and in past summers, teaching at the Art Barge. Plus, I spend time with wonderful friends at the beach.
View Heatley’s works at www.drawingroom-gallery.com.