Andrea Heimer: "Folk and Dagger"

In these narrative paintings, the complex human interactions of suburbia depicted are so strange and yet so familiar

<i>On Snow Days We Sneaked Over to the Rich People's Hill 
and Used Their Snow for Battle</i>, by Andrea Heimer
On Snow Days We Sneaked Over to the Rich People's Hill and Used Their Snow for Battle, by Andrea Heimer

Andrea Heimer: "Folk and Dagger"

Yard Dog Art Gallery, 1510 S. Congress, 512/912-1613
Through Dec. 28

What is it like to be alive in this world, in this time and place? There's the external surround we all have to deal with and of course it varies from location to location, even these days, regardless of how much each country, each neighborhood, is slowly turning, chain-store-wise, into what my wife likes to call Generica.

Capturing that environment, evoking with precision and vibrancy both the human-built and the unfabricated world, is one way an artist can address our current existence. And then there's that old terra incognita, the interiority of us, which can be rendered to some extent along the lines of common ground – each person, each individual, slowly accruing a mass-media-influenced sort of Generica of the mind to accompany our basic biologically driven humanity – but which ultimately comes down to each person's unique experience.

The way in which people experience the world – the ways in which they react to it – when expressed with determination, that's what we call art.

That's what Andrea Heimer is doing, and you can witness the results of this determination on the walls of Yard Dog Art Gallery, in the artist's current "Folk and Dagger" exhibition.

"Through quietly observing the lives around her" says the exhibition statement, referring to the 33-year-old artist's childhood in Great Falls, Mont., "Heimer was able to piece together neighborhood tales of madness, conspiracy, and love, often substituting her own theories into any missing pieces of the story ... Part allegory, part autobiography, her crudely rendered but tremendously detailed paintings depict scenes of heartbreak, madness, and the emotional claustrophobia that comes with living in a tightly knit neighborhood."

Yeah, you ain't kidding. Whereas some visual art is called "narrative" even though it's nonsequential – and it's called that because the static image so vividly suggests unique events leading up to and away from the scene depicted – Heimer's is called "narrative" because: 1) it fits the definition just given; and 2) what else could you call paintings with titles like On Snow Days We Sneaked Over to the Rich People's Hill and Used Their Snow for Battle and Around June 1987 the Blacks' Summer Party Was Interrupted by a Broken Water Pipe, the Cause of Which Was Contested for Years?

This is some powerful stuff here, this depiction of the complex human interactions of suburbia, rendered in a manner (and with a level of autodidactic skill) that falls somewhere between the creations of the Reverend Howard Finster and Grandma Moses. The way it delves into and chronicles the warped mythos of a particular place, ah ... "Dude, it's totally David Lynch," I hear some bro in my head commenting. But no; rather, these neighborhood intrigues – so distinct, so strange, and yet so familiar – are reminiscent of those braided bits of Kelly "Magic for Beginners" Link stories that anchor that author's flights of fancy to the real world and create genre-transcendent literary brilliance.

And right there's a fine and edifying day's activities for you in this neighborhood, reader: Since Yard Dog is on South Congress, you could pay a long visit to the gallery (there's more to see there than just Heimer's wall-mounted anthropologies), then head to nearby BookPeople and grab you a copy of some Kelly Link collection. Have your mind boggled by the familiar made remarkable in its manner of rendering, enjoy an array of talented depictions of what it's like to be alive in this world. While, don't forget, you're still living in it.

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Yard Dog Art Gallery, Andrea Heimer, Kelly Link, Rev. Howard Finster, Grandma Moses

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