Heather Lowe: Dimensions in Art
Written by Genie Davis
Both in terms of medium and content, Heather Lowe is creating some audacious, astounding work. Her art has evolved over the years, as she’s tried a variety of optical effects, pushing the envelope for new ways to express her vision, from painting with moires, and creating form through intersecting surface lines to stereo photography, and then, fifteen years ago, stereo paintings.
“These paintings were exhibited at LA Artcore Brewery Annex. It was a successful show, but the dependency on viewers for those who couldn’t free-view, limited some people’s experience. One day I saw a lenticular – a little winkie – on a card that my mother gave me, and it was an ‘Aha’ moment,” she relates.
Lowe wrote to several companies listed on the back of cards until she finally found a lens manufacturer and was able to purchase five large lenses. She made a few pieces, and placed one in the Barnsdall Open Show, taking note of people looking at it.
“It was all very new and exciting, and I sold the one I exhibited. Since then, I’ve tried many different optical effects with lenticular, depending on the intention, and what the artwork calls for.”
Lowe says she doesn’t create pieces that hope for a result or outcome, but instead goes for the “genuine.”
“I express what is essential, what is meaningful at a certain moment. My process is very laborious and rather complicated, but I want all of that to disappear when someone is looking at the object,” she reveals. “I love learning about processes and new materials but that’s not what my art is about. My art is about knowing you as well as knowing me.”
There is a grace and inner Zen-like quality to her work; if she’s exploring depths and patterns, and both illusions and impressions with her art, then she does so with a truly deceptive ease. Her work draws the viewer in, compels both study and pleasure. It is accessible on a variety of levels, so that the format she uses, however unique, is less important than the sense of beauty and simple joy she shapes. Her work is haunting because there are so many layers to it, and because she brings wit, a rich knowledge, and an appreciation of the wonderfulness of simply seeing, to it.
Currently, Lowe has an installation about to close at Shoebox Projects’ The Closet space. Work that she terms a “departure, or should I say arrival. Before my Shoebox proposal was accepted, I had been working on a series of ink paintings inspired by a song cycle by Aaron Copland of poems by Emily Dickinson. I’ll be taking that up now. It’s some of the most beautiful music in the world, and if I can get a glimmer of it in lenticular, I’ll be happy.”
To that end, Lowe has already spoken to a potential collaborator who studied voice at USC, and says she hopes to work with her in a performance and exhibition.
But back to The Closet. The inspired, amusing, yet moving installation is based in part on Lowe’s predilection to collect objects or images.
“My partner, Christopher Mulrooney, who died in 2015, used to bring in these clippings of missing persons that were placed in market ads and left at our doorstep. One day he said, ‘Wouldn’t you leave home if they expected you to become this?’ He was referring to the computer age-progressed picture alongside the real face. I started to collect them. Each time we would talk about them, or laugh, or feel terribly sad. So, I knew I would do something with them, and four years later the opportunity arrived.”
Lowe wanted to add the faces of people she knew so that the anonymity of the images would be broken.
She notes “They are us. We are them. I chose people that have a good sense of humor, or knew me well enough to know that it was partly tongue-in-cheek. I think empathy is so lacking today. I wanted to jolt people, and myself, out of that immobility. I may add a couple more and would someday like to extend this idea.”
Lowe in many ways seems like an artistic alchemist. She fuses several worlds in her work, such as art and technology, or science and art. In fact, she’s said that she is really a scientist at heart.
“I suppose fusing worlds is true in a sense. I love trying new inventions as it relates to visual perception, like VR,” she asserts. “Technology becomes more interesting to me as it becomes more sensitive to the human spirit. Ian Cheng is doing some wonderful things there. But I love great music, film and literature as well, so all of these things play out in my art.”
If Lowe has a mantra, it is possibly what she says next: “Why should we limit our curiosity?”
Looking to the future, she feels that lenticulars are here to stay for her, although she’s created paintings, etchings, sculptures, and collage,in the past. She sometimes combines these other art forms with lenticular creation.
“I feel like I am very loyal to my materials and if I am perfecting something, I hope it is my art,” she explains.
Asked what her favorite work has been, she finds that a difficult question. “I’m always in love with the one I am working on. But to go back a little, if there was a series of paintings I cherish, it would be the paintings I made after driving from L.A. to Santa Fe in 2001. Mulrooney and I drove straight there to see the exhibition Beau Monde, curated by Dave Hickey, and it was the most magical trip I have ever been on: the skies, the stars, and the clouds. When I got home, I painted and painted. It was a good time, full of inspiration.”
And that is the best way to sum up Lowe’s work altogether – it provides the viewer with a truly enjoyable, richly rewarding “good time” and fills one with a genuine sense of wonder — and inspiration.