Mary Heebner's Work Moves the Heart
by Kerry Methner
CASA Magazine, February 25, 2005
A whisper of memory, is how Mary Heebner describes her first exposure to art, taking her back to a high chair and crayons offered by her mother. “I colored on the wooden tray as well as on the paper,” she recalled. Heebner is an internationally exhibited Santa Barbara artist and author.
It wasn’t until the second grade when she painted a vase of magnolias with tempEras, that her art teacher recognized her gifts, pulling her mother aside to say, “She’s really talented.” Mary recalled, “My mom framed the picture, and it was the first time I was conscious about my art as something seen, as well as something done.”
After that, with her mother encouraging her art (as an avocation) by driving her to Saturday art classes, and her musician father relating “I don’t know much about art, but baby you’ve got rhythm,” Mary found her center and began drawing, painting, and sketching her way through life. “I’ve always been an artist,” she replied when asked when she began identifying herself as one. “It’s what I DO.”
Mary’s pull toward words came when she was privileged to attend Providence High School in Los Angeles near where she grew up. There, reading Buber, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, and Dostoevsky, she discovered literature and writing. After school she poured over books in the aisles of Dutton's. “Mrs. Dutton just left me alone, and I chose books, literally, by the cover.” Making a studio for herself in her high school art room, Mary created her first Artist’s Book. This perhaps was an omen of things to come, as Mary has eventually written, illustrated, and bound several beautiful handmade books, as well as contributed essays to partner the photographic works of her husband Macduff Everton. “Language is beautiful. I am in awe of a well crafted sentence,” Mary shared. “An image evoked is like alchemy IT IS hard to do.”
After the shelter of her high school studio, Mary enrolled at UCSB, where she earned a B.A. from the College of Creative Studies with a concentration in art and Literature, and later an MFA in Art. By the time she graduated she had melded her passions for the poetic and archetypal images. “There is a consonance between poetry, jazz, and whatever this (my work) is. I play off the cadence and rhythm - whether with paint or words.”
As an artist, Mary works with paper almost exclusively, as “each paper has its own personality....Paper is a permeable membrane.” Creating a dialogue between herself and the materials she chooses, she noted, “The materials guide you. I respond to materials as much as my materials respond to my manipulation.”
To four blessings Mary attributes her life and artistic development: good teachers, travel, caring people, and the wilderness. Each has touched and moved her along her way. While an undergraduate and later as a graduate student at UCSB, Max Schott, Masami Kanemitsu, Kenneth Rexroth, and William Dole each fostered Mary’s creative approach to the threading together of literature and art. “The College of Creative Studies is often a safety net for people who don’t fit in the regular curriculum,” Mary noted.
Many of Mary’s travels have become the inspiration for a series of her works, such as a trip to the pre-historic caves in France’s Dordogne area where the paintings and carvings inspired her Dark Venus series. “I work a lot from antiquity and ancient sculpture,” the artist shared. “Ancient images seem to cut right to the heart of things... The archaic is present. My work aims to reveal this presence within the passage of time...earthen and the human formS are deeply , sensually connected. Beauty comes from this connection. ”
In addition to this kind of time travel, Mary has explored on most continents of the earth. She findsthat travel enriches her connection to the world and the people in it. “Travel increases your sense of humanity. There is sweetness to be found everywhere,” she explained.
Travel has also allowed Mary to “get over thinking that New York is the center of the world.” Mary’s daughter, Sienna Craig, has adopted this spirit. She and her mother are in the final stages of completing an art book of Sienna’s poetry on Mary’s handmade paper that reflects Sienna’s experiences living in Tibet and Nepal called “A Sacred Geography”.
While seemingly unafraid to strike out in new directions, on her own, Mary attributes this to the affection of and connection with family and friends, that makes her “braver.” “There is something that friends and family do that allows you to step out on the plank,” Mary revealed.
In addition to the many humans that populate her world, Mary Heebner has a special connection to the wilderness. “I hike and walk. The natural world, especially the ocean, the elemental forces, feed me in a spiritual way. I sense the spirituality that arises from nature.” I am currently working on a series, “Laguna Salada” inspired by Chile's Atacama Desert one of the driest places on earth.”
This last year has found many auras of success hovering around Mary Heebner. After a very successful show at Sullivan Goss An American Gallery here in Santa Barbara (that coincided with the publishing of On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea by Pablo Neruda) one of Mary’s paintings was purchased by the US Embassy's Chancery collection in Moscow, Russia and another by the SB Chamber of Commerce for their permanent collection and to adorn the cover of their 2005 members directory.