Local artist manipulates Elmer's glue into layers of enamel


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A wood panel lay on a flat table in an art studio in which NPR can be heard among the swift movement of a paintbrush and the clanking of paint bottles.

Artist Heidi Van Wieren works on the wooden surface by pouring and manipulating many layers of Elmer’s Glue.

The 15 layers of enamel create a rich textured surface that present the viewer with what she describes as “many layers of meaning.”

“My work has always been inspired by everything before and around,” she said. “It embraces elements of action painting, painterly abstraction, and post-minimalism.”

Fifteen paintings of this style will be showcased in the I Dream of Delft exhibit at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in an opening reception in the Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery on the second floor of the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St. The exhibit will run through Jan. 8, 2013. Admission is free and open to the public.

The visiting assistant professor in painting and drawing at the UI found her inspiration in the decorative patterns and colors of delftware and delft tiles.

“I am truly amazed by the smaller but amazingly beautiful things that surround our daily lives, from licorice and marbleized paper to ribbons and candy sticks,” Van Wieren said.

She was first exposed to the blue and white tiles of delftware when she was a young girl growing up in Holland, Mich., which is full of people descended from the Dutch.

She remembers her childhood being surrounded by the delft color palette in her home as well as at her first job carving candles.

“These memories and ideas are the framework for my newest work,” Van Wieren said. “To make visual connection among process, decorative, cultural, aesthetic, and the personal.”

Dawn Harbor, the Englert’s Paul Gallery coordinator, was intrigued by the materials the artist used in her work.

She asked Van Wieren if she wanted to hold her first local exhibition in Iowa City, and the artist agreed.

“The body of work is very geographical and oceanic, with an amazing jump into color,” Harbor said. “It’s very simple in that it is blue and white, but it has so much going on with the suspension of the enamel.”

Van Wieren, who moved from New York to Iowa City three years ago, said showing her work in this exhibit is not only efficient but also a way for the locals to see her work.

For this show, she is also playing up the concept of theater by providing T-shirts designed by local artist Jay Schleidt of Peff Prints. The shirts reflect the blue and white colors of Van Wieren’s work.

Elvira Bakalbasic, a former employee of The Daily Iowan who has known Van Wieren since her freshman year, said the visiting faculy member has been a motivator for her career.

“I’ve seen how successful she’s been as an artist and living in New York before, which is what I plan to do after I graduate,” Bakalbasic said.

The UI senior journalism major has not seen the exhibit at the Englert yet, but she has been to several of Van Wieren’s exhibits in Chicago.

“[Van Wieren’s] work with Elmer’s Glue is mesmerizing. It’s hard not to get transfixed on one piece,” Bakalbasic said. “Her shows are always cool and hip, something that you want to be a part of.”


I Dream In Delft, by Heidi Van Wieren
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday through Jan. 8, 2013
Where: Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery, second floor Englert, 221 E. Washington
Admission: Free and open to the public

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