Doorways to Heaven
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, heierart.com, 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