Heather Watts' Vintage Velvets

Heather Watts' Vintage Velvets

Kathryn Wright
May 18, 2010

Heather Watts has developed a wild and beautiful style drawn from natural and supernatural worlds. Her paintings are in a dreamlike vintage-inspired landscape complimented by gorgeous frames often made from reclaimed, distressed materials.

When I think of velvet paintings I think of luminous orange Hawaiian sunsets and portraits of Elvis, and I imagine them in musty basement rec rooms near harvest gold appliances. But Heather Watts has elevated velvet painting into a much finer medium. Her use of natural and supernatural imagery combined with carefully selected recycled and repurposed framing results in a very pleasing and original style.

She draws inspiration from many places, including Pacific Northwest rainforests and South Pacific culture. Her exposure to West coast First Nations art has helped her understand that these art forms are sacred to the cultures that create them. She consciously tries not to copy or imitate them and this has led her to look to nature for shapes and forms. Heather lives in a world filled with creatures that, in her own words "are often neither human nor animal, but bridge the gap between. Many of them I think of as being hidden inhabitants of the natural world, guardians and guides, sometimes mischievous, sometimes dangerous."

Another significant part of Heather's creative process is framing. In a collaboration with Patrick g. Robinson, a friend who hand-builds frames out of reclaimed materials including bamboo, salvaged wood, and even broomsticks (shown in the frame liner in image 3, Workin' Stiff) Heather often paints to suit the frames. The style and design of the frames is drawn from 1960s velvet frames, complete with detailing and layered textures and finishes. Both Heather and Patrick also shop thrift stores for vintage frames to refurbish for her work. As she says:

"The way I frame my artwork is really an extension of my general life as a consumer. The furniture I own, the books I read, the clothes I wear; almost everything has come from thrift stores or as hand-me-downs from friends or parents. The culture of conspicuous consumption tells us we ought to want the newest of everything. But by seeing potential in things that have been discarded by that culture, and by restoring them to new life, we keep waste out of landfills and create value without diminishing our resources."

Heather also paints in acrylics, designs cards, jewelry, and other accessories. Her work can be viewed and purchased online through heatherwatts.com, through her etsy shop, and through virtualgallery.com.

You can also view her work in person at the following galleries, M Modern Gallery in Palm Springs and La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.

As well as in upcoming shows:
"Polyblend" at Harold Golen Gallery, Miami in June 2010
"Zombies Attack Brooklyn" at MF Gallery, Brooklyn in June 2010

(Above images from left to right: Jeweled Mask commissions, Captive, Workin Stiff, New Beginnings, and New Dustbowl Blues)

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