Heffernan: “I grew up looking at a picture of Jesus”

Julie Heffernan,”Self Portrait as Budding Boy,” 2010, oil on canvas, 78 x 56″

In Art in America Perrin Drumm reports on a studio visit with Julie Heffernan, who has an upcoming show at PPOW this month. “‘There’s just so much that our modern world doesn’t offer that you only get in old paintings,’ says Julie Heffernan, indicating that the references are meant to re-insert into the vocabulary of art what modernism has taken out, namely the lush worlds imagined by artists like Reubens an Velasquez. ?One direct reference, which would be homage to the masters if it weren’t also a matter of naturalism is the artist’s use of chiaroscuro, rendering of light and shadow. What might look in her work like a return to the old masters is simultaneously a pointed rebellion against the prevailing modes of abstraction�minimalism and conceptualism�in the late 1970s and early 80s, when Heffernan was a student at Yale, a point at which, she saus, ‘The complicated paintings I loved just weren’t around.’ ?

“Heffernan traces her approach to figure painting to her Catholic upbringing where she was exposed to little outside the realm of the Church: ‘I grew up looking at a picture of Jesus.’ With a visual language comprising heavily embellished Churches and portraits of Jesus and the saints (which she describes as ‘sensorially abundant cinematical explosions’), it’s no wonder that the minimalist credo ‘less is more’ doesn’t apply here. ??For her latest series, ‘Boy, Oh Boy,’ opening next week at PPOW marks at least one departure for the artist: no more smack-in-the-middle females. After years of working in the mode of Classical, centered portraiture ‘suddenly,’ she says, ‘I was just done with it.'” Read more.

Julie Heffernan: Boy, Oh Boy,” PPOW, New York, NY. April 29 through June 5.


  1. �She was exposed to little outside the realm of the Church: �I grew up looking at a picture of Jesus.��

    Coming from a professed Roman Catholic, this is a bit much. The Catholic Church has a distinguished record of commissioning superior works from the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael and Titian, to name only a few. If her childhood was a little barren pictorially, she can hardly blame this on her church.

    Also, an amusing comment on the AiA site about the howler � �Reubens an Velasquez�. Perhaps the author was confusing them with a favorite deli or taco stand?

  2. I love the historical content of these works. A very refreshing reflection.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *