New work: “Float Thru My Mind”

2019 Copyright Monica Heiser

In this 18 x 24″ mixed media collage and acrylic painting, you see my mother as a child, being held by my grandmother, Irene. They float as a reflection in a swirling bubble, dancing between flowers in a field of irises. This work reflects on mother/child relationships, memory, and time, so that the viewer feels both pulled into the past and present simultaneously.

This painting has been in my heart for a long time. The fact that I am in school for art education right now is in large part due to the support and kindness that my mom and dad have shown me over the years: art supplies, books, classes… My mom is my biggest patron. At this point, I’ve painted so many paintings for her that the imagery of iris flowers has become a reoccurring symbol in my art.

Irises are my mother’s favorite flower, in part, because it was her mother’s favorite flower. My grandmother Irene reflects the symbolism of the flower color: purple irises symbolize royalty and wisdom; blue irises symbolize faith and hope. All four of these words symbolize my mother and grandmother. After WWII when the Soviet’s were unrolling the Iron Curtain, my grandmother fled from Poland with her mother and sibling. She stayed in England for a number of years, until she met her husband at age 23. My mother was born in England, and then emigrated when she was 5 years old with my grandmother and grandfather. There are some very sad parts of this story: my grandmother’s brother taken forever to concentration camps before they escaped; my mother’s father dying of cancer when she was 10 years old; and ultimately my grandmother dying of Alzheimer’s disease. This painting is an ode to my matriarchal lineage of resiliency. They will be remembered by their faith in God, their hope for a better future for their children, and their wisdom that they passed onto their families.

Additionally, irises are an ancient symbol; in Greek, the word iris means “rainbow” and the goddess Iris was the personification of the rainbow. The interesting thing with rainbows, bubbles, and moments of time, are that they all arise and pass away so quickly. Their beauty is in part because you realize how special it is that you are present to witness their truth bloom. Also, when you capture a photo of a bubble, by default, the background becomes blurry. I played with this idea in the foreground with the irises, and feel like it relates to human focus and memory.

When my mom was visiting her only sister in Seattle, she dug up a bunch of archival photos. I used the photos as a reference as I drew their portraits with pencil. I love drawing! It was so nice to “spend time” with my grandmother and mom by drawing their faces. I then scanned that drawing, edited it with Photoshop, and printed it out. I also used reference pictures of flowers and bubbles to get closer to a realistic rendering. The process to this painting is important: I messed up multiple times and it was because of those errors that I was able to figure out what I wanted. I spray painted the sky blue with the bubble being black. Then I realized I wanted the scene to be at night – representing the trials my mother and grandmother experienced. Wanting to experiment, I painted the bubble white and attempted my first “acrylic transfer” by soaking it with water and medium. I waited an hour for it to dry, but it seriously looked bad. The image severely tore when I rubbed the paper away and although the original image had supersaturated colors, the transfer was too washed out. Instead I just collaged another water-soaked copy of the image directly onto the canvas with medium, placing it directly on top of the acrylic transfer residue. It worked and had the saturation, warmth, and brightness of a summer day.

Feel free to let me know what you think, and/or if you ever want a commissioned portrait, leave me a message in the contact form on my website.

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