Top: "Minnesota", acrylic, moss, paper mâché, mop strings,
dryer lint, prairie grass seeds, pine needles, burrs,
oil on canvas, 36" x 102". 2015;
Below Top: Sophia Heymans at work in her Studio;
"March", acrylic, paper mâché, mop strings,
moss, oil on canvas, 50" x 60". 2014;
Detail of "Pond Hockey", acrylic, moss, paper mâché,
string, twine, oil on canvas. 61"x 90.5". 2015;
Middle: "December", acrylic, paper mâché,
prairie grass seeds, oil on canvas, 50" x 60". 2013
Below Middle: Detail of "Coyotes at Night", acrylic, moss,
paper mâché, mop strings, dryer lint, prairie grass seeds,
burrs, oil on canvas, 60" x 84". 2015;
"September" (part of), acrylic, paper mâché, pine
needles, roots, sticks, prairie grass seeds, dried dill,
oil on canvas, 48" x 60". 2014;
Detail of "January", acrylic, paper mâché,
moss, oil on canvas, 48" x 54". 2014;
Bottom: Detail of Minnesota (top painting)
I was born on the last day of the 80s in Minneapolis. I grew up on an 80 acre plot of restored native prairie and wetlands in central Minnesota. It used to be a hog farm run by the Benedictine nuns from the monastery across the field. My parents and four of my aunts and uncles still live there today.
My younger sister and I were home-schooled throughout childhood. When we had finished our morning schoolwork, we spent the afternoons and evenings playing outside. A cleared-out space in a cornfield, the cab of a parked tractor, the top of tree and the hayloft of a barn all became significant locations in a highly elaborate make-believe world. We would collect pine cones, burrs, corn kernels and seeds and put them in jars and piles all around our hideouts; often pretending that this assortment of plant materials was a harvest to feed us through the coming winter.
Years later I attended Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 2012 with a degree in painting. In Providence, I started experimenting with texture and collage, often layering fabric scraps, strings and found objects onto my surfaces. Sometimes I would walk around the city and collect litter and leaves from the curbs and soak them all together in a bucket. I would then make paper out of the pulp and paint on it. Now, looking back, this act of harvesting helped me to feel less out of place in the city.
Moving back to Minnesota after college I returned to the family farm for a while in order to live more affordably. I immediately started painting landscapes with a new appreciation for the area. This process was very centering for me. Naturally, I began started collecting seeds and plant materials from around the land and incorporating them into the new paintings. I made one painting for each of the 12 months I lived on the farm.
One of the ideas which I thought of frequently during this year was if my tendency to gather came from some leftover human instinct that we have not yet evolved past. Living in the United States in the 21st century, we humans do not have to perform many of the difficult tasks that were required of us thousands of years ago such as foraging. I believe I have found another use for that now futile instinct by putting my gathered harvests into my art practice. These textural plant materials help the landscapes feel rooted, grounded, and give them a strong sense of place.
Since I am currently living in Minneapolis, I make my paintings mostly from imagination and memory. They are large scale landscapes painted with oils layered over a surface of acrylics and embedded found and natural materials. I compose energetic outdoor scenes with carefully arranged representations of plant, animal, and structural subjects interacting in an ongoing imagined story. For me these crowded images express the unique personalities of places, and the momentary persons who engage those places in desire of a culminating relationship.