In one of Lucia Heffernan’s newest works a sheep dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief on the witness stand in a wood-paneled courtroom. A sheep judge looks on, as does a sheep prosecutor and sheep bailiff. Nearby in an orange prison jumpsuit is a wolf, his head down and his paws secured in handcuffs. Poor Ewe would feel raw and gratuitous with human subjects—maybe it would be a commentary on the justice system or of the mannered and deliberate way in which crimes are prosecuted—but with farm animals the tension is diffused into humor and silliness.
“I used to paint very technical animal paintings, and I can still paint very realistic if I want to, but it was very boring to me,” Heffernan says. “There wasn’t much story there, so I instead started creating these very human stories, but with animals.”
It works—and for a variety of reasons, too, one of them being that humans have such a deep affection for animals that their anthropomorphic presence in human scenes doesn’t deflect the human narrative—it enhances it. Consider Old Man of the Sea, with its polar bear subject matter in a yellow slicker and cap, corncob pipe hanging from his mouth. There’s a weathered resiliency to his eyes, old eyes that
have seen too much of the ocean yet can’t leave it. If this were a man we would know him, know his story, know his struggles with nature. But he’s not a man; he’s a polar bear, and those stories still apply.
Heffernan will present new works at a show opening May 18 at 15th Street Gallery in Salt Lake City. The artist, herself a resident of Salt Lake City, will exhibit pieces such as Ski School, which shows a line of penguins ready to take skiing lessons from a penguin instructor in a helmet and goggles; Kiddie Cone, featuring a lamb smiling infectiously at a scoop of pink ice cream on a cone; and Insomnia, which depicts a pug wearing a red beanie with a marijuana leaf embroidered on the band. “I was not sleeping well when I made that one. The pug could certainly be a little stoned, but I like for people to make up their own stories for what’s happening,” she says. “Many times the paintings come from real experiences, such as Ski School, which is what I saw here in Salt Lake City as ski instructors teach young students.” In addition to the fun, little animal paintings—including a dapper fox in a scarf and a newsboy hat, a commuting mouse with an overcoat and umbrella, and a border collie reading a sheep herding book—Heffernan will also show one of her more realistic, larger-scale animals works, El Toro, a 60-inch wide painting of a bull turning right into the viewer. The exhibition continues through June 9.
15th Street Gallery 1519 S. 1500 E., Salt Lake City UT 84105 • (801) 468-1515 • www.15thstreetgallery.com
“Whether whimsical interpretation or a beautiful, powerful still life of an animal, Lucia’s paintings seem to come alive. Lucia’s paintings are detailed, capturing animals in a very human way. Each painting brings a strong emotion, a sense of warmth and happiness to the viewer. As clients approach her art, I often hear them stop and chuckle.” —Lucy Heller, director,
15th Street Gallery
Dapper Dan, oil on panel, 20 x 16"
Kiddie Cone, oil on panel, 16 x 16"
Insomnia, oil on panel, 15 x 15"