An­i­mal Farm

American Art Collector - - Contents -

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.15thstreet­

“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"

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