Door­ways to Heaven

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - Jeff Ly­tle is the re­tired edi­to­rial page edi­tor and TV host from the Naples Daily News. He now lives in Bonita Springs.

Robert com­bined new ‘tools’ in his art—com­put­ers, soft­ware pro­grams, etc., with his ini­tial, more tra­di­tion­ally cap­tured im­agery. The re­sult is this new, very dif­fer­ent por­trayal of the orig­i­nal sub­ject.” —Susan Bridges, pres­i­dent of Cen­ters for the Arts Bonita Springs

An Es­tero artist has quickly made a name for him­self in South­west Flor­ida for his work with an­gels. Earthly an­gels with no wings. These an­gels are col­or­ful, mes­mer­iz­ing im­ages made from pho­to­graphs that Robert Heier makes of ob­scure, ag­ing ar­chi­tec­ture in Europe, Latin Amer­ica and South Amer­ica. “Some of the build­ings are fall­ing apart,’’ he ex­plains. “So, ac­tu­ally, they are my ‘fallen an­gels.’ They are time­less. Not only are they baroque, they are rot­ten baroque.’’

Heier calls his art “faux­tog­ra­phy,’’ which is catchy al­though not en­tirely ac­cu­rate. There is noth­ing faux or fake about the pic­tures that he de­lights in mak­ing in mostly out-of-the-way venues. And there is noth­ing faux or fake about the se­ri­ous, hard work Heier does with Pho­to­shop on a com­puter—to add all ranges of color and of­ten mul­ti­ple copies of the same door­way, win­dow, street scene or façade in the same com­pleted, framed work.

For the ob­server, find­ing the essence of each piece of Heier’s art can take time. “His abil­ity to take a pho­to­graph and turn it into a beau­ti­ful, col­or­ful ab­stract work of art is un­be­liev­able,’’ says Jacke McCurdy, a leader of the Cen­ters for the Arts Bonita Springs, or CFABS, and fel­low artist, in ink. “Truly a ta­lent!’’

In the past few years, Heier has ex­panded from paper to work­ing with high-qual­ity can­vas and metal. He al­lows those ad­vanced works—up to 6 feet wide or tall—to em­ploy el­e­ments from more than one pho­to­graph. Pic­tures of arches in Europe, for ex­am­ple, can be ac­cented by clouds from lo­cal skies for a strik­ingly global ef­fect. And the im­ages re­pro­duced on metal get in­creas­ingly vivid as the gloss or shine of the ma­te­rial is in­creased.

Heier, 75, is a Brook­lyn, New York, na­tive who worked as an anti-trust pros­e­cu­tor and de­fense at­tor­ney, fi­nan­cial plan­ner and syn­di­cated “Money & You’’ writer. He moved to Es­tero five

years ago, from Fairfax County, Vir­ginia. The tall, sturdy, out­go­ing artist didn’t take long to bond with the lo­cal art scene.

He has taken part in ma­jor shows spon­sored by CFABS and has given back by of­fer­ing deep dis­counts for a CFABS fundraiser sale/ex­hi­bi­tion that was held in Jan­uary. “I be­lieve in the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s very am­bi­tious ap­proach—with ed­u­ca­tion for young peo­ple and sem­i­nars for older peo­ple,’’ Heier says. “And CFABS pres­i­dent Susan Bridges is just a ter­rific head of state. Plus, she’s a sweetie.’’

Bridges re­turns the praise: “Through­out time, we’ve seen artists on the edge of new and ex­cit­ing ideas and pro­cesses, al­ways push­ing us for­ward, chal­leng­ing us. We’ve also seen those who choose to re­main steeped in the tra­di­tions of their train­ing and hold onto that process and im­agery. Robert is one of those in­no­va­tors.

“He has a tremen­dously cre­ative, artis­tic mind and viewpoint. … He com­bined new ‘tools’ in his art—com­put­ers, soft­ware pro­grams, etc., with his ini­tial, more tra­di­tion­ally cap­tured im­agery. The re­sult is this new, very dif­fer­ent por­trayal of the orig­i­nal sub­ject. Each one of his art­works re­flects his jour­ney. They’re breath­tak­ing.”

For Heier, the magic mo­ment that led him to the path of pho­tog­ra­phy and art is easy to re­call. He cred­its his mother, who sent him a high-qual­ity Canon cam­era to re­place his ev­ery­day point-and-click Ko­dak, to as­sure she had good pho­tos of Heier’s child. When he opened the box, he protested: “This is for pros.’’ To which his mother replied, “But the man in the store said … ”

The Canon cou­pled with his lifelong in­ter­est in art—in­clud­ing painter Théo To­bi­asse, mas­ter of the Paris School—and the rest is his­tory.

“It’s an ad­dic­tion,’’ he says. “I miss a lot of meals.’’

Heier ex­plains he’s back­ing away from his main sales places, such as big shows in Bonita and around the coun­try, in fa­vor of more leisurely paced gal­leries. He’s also branch­ing out by pro­vid­ing works for the Em­bassy Suites in Ken­ne­saw, Geor­gia, and the Ruth’s Chris Steak House lo­cated in the ho­tel.

His web­site, heier­, lists past ex­hibits at Colorida Gallery in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal; the Sausal­ito Art Fes­ti­val in Cal­i­for­nia; Michi­gan’s Ann Ar­bor Art Fair, and the North­ern Vir­ginia Arts Fes­ti­val. Heier’s works have also been in the Cen­ter for Fine Art Pho­tog­ra­phy in Fort Collins, Col­orado; McBride Gallery in An­napo­lis, Mary­land; Trow­bridge-Lewis Gallery in Mid­dle­burg, Vir­ginia, and Lake­side Gallery in Re­ston, Vir­ginia.

Heier’s ta­lent gets an aptly thought­ful sum­mary from Ehren Ger­hard, CFABS’ ex­hi­bi­tions di­rec­tor and Flor­ida Gulf Coast Univer­sity ad­junct pro­fes­sor of art: “Robert’s work ex­plores strong de­sign el­e­ments and color with rich lay­ers of translu­cent im­agery that in­spires thought and re­flec­tion. He has cre­ated a num­ber of large-scale pho­to­graphs that en­cap­su­late the viewer—as well as in­ti­mate, small-scale works that re­veal them­selves through closer ob­ser­va­tion.”

Pic­ture this: Sel­dom be­fore have fallen an­gels pro­vided so much en­rich­ment and en­joy­ment.

Some of the build­ings are fall­ing apart. So, ac­tu­ally, they are my fallen an­gels. They are time­less. Not only are they baroque, they are rot­ten baroque.’’ —Artist Robert Heier of Es­tero


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