FEATURED ARTIST: Heather Workman Rios
The $2 Art Contest is both a gift and an albatross. I am often late posting results (like this one for MAY–due 10 days ago), and I feel guilty about that. I am disheartened by the ugly responses I get on rare occasion, but my spirit soars when I get great feedback from my well-intended suggestions. But every once in a while, I find a kindred spirit. Some make me laugh so hard that my beverage squirts out my nose. Some become an inspiration and motivation. And this one just understands. I get her point of view just like I get that bacon makes everything better.
This month’s artist has taken a less-than-traditional upbringing and turned it into life lessons for those that crave a little sweet with their salty. Like bacon on a cupcake. I am proud to announce the Featured Artist chosen from the May entries is Heather Workman Rios. Her artwork captures the joy of the ideal without falling prey to the sappy sentiment that often accompanies it. I find myself smiling and having my faith renewed. Clever girl.
Heather Workman Rios
When she was very young, Rios lived in rural West Virginia in a pink farm house with no running water. Her parents were hippies who had a gigantic vegetable garden, and raised chickens (her best friends). “We dressed how we wanted (often a t-shirt with nothing else), and I had no interactions with the “outside” world until I was nearly four years old. Then we moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, and I remember going grocery shopping with my grandmother. Everyone commented on what a ‘cute little boy’ I was, and my grandmother was outraged.
“I couldn’t understand why. I knew I was a girl. Why was my grandmother so upset, after all, they thought I was ‘cute’! Not too long afterwards, my grandmother took me clothes shopping, and began making clothes for me (dresses, mostly pink), and I soon learned that pink was the “girl” color.
“My work chronicles my perception of human nature. They are clearly tainted by my stringent regimen of old fashioned, American gender training. They display my love/hate relationship with the American concept of what it means to be a woman.”
I love the retro feel of your imagery contrasted with the dark undertone. Talk to me about that. “I have this love/hate relationship with anything from post WW2 to the mid sixties. It was a really strange time in America because the War was over and people were optimistic and trying to build these sweet, innocent little domestic lives. Yet many of them were also building fallout shelters and there was still segregation and all kinds of crazy stuff was going on. To me this era epitomizes the struggle that is much of the content of my work. I believe people are inherently good, but yet they have this propensity towards choosing evil.”
Do you consider yourself a painter? Something else? “To me, it’s not really about the media but about the content. I’ll use whatever I feel fits the need of work I want to make. I tend to reach for paint the most, probably because of it’s plasticity. About 90% of my art is oil on wood panel. I sometimes use bits of collage or cut-out paper. I sort of like to keep people guessing as to which elements are collage and which are painted, but most of it is paint. I’ve done sculptures and printmaking, and other mixed-media works also.”
I’m a sucker for portraiture. Why do people feature so prominently in your work? “It’s funny because even though I spent most of my childhood in nature, the most interesting things to me, even out in the forest, were the man-made– in the form of artifacts that we never found. I am just fascinated in general with human beings.
“The human body really hasn’t changed that much in thousands of years, but our material culture changes constantly, and we impose an enormous amount of meaning on many of our objects.”
You know we have to talk about food. What is your favorite? “It has to be bacon. My favorite combo at the moment is bacon with fried plantains.”
Bacon really goes with everything–especially vegetables.
“I’m Italian and my husband is Puerto Rican, so I’ve been trying to combine our food together into new recipes. So far I’ve discovered we have a mutual love for pork and garlic–but I don’t eat garlic unless he eats it too.” Wise move, sister.
So, what’s coming up next for you? “I don’t really have any big plans for my life right now. I just plan to keep making art and see what happens.” Once a hippie, always a hippie?
Thank you, Heather for giving me a dose of salty and sweet along with a wicked smile. You have reminded me WHY I keep producing work.