Exhibition essay

Heather Stivison: Seeds of Change

Heather Stivison, Ecoscope: AIR 2, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 x 2 inches

Contributed by Kathy Imlay / Heather Stivison’s paintings in “Seeds of Change: Paintings of Climate Change and Hope”, imply unseen possibilities for restoring the natural balance of our planet. In her first New York solo exhibition—on view at Pleiades Gallery in Chelsea through April 15, also and as an online exclusive with Imlay Gallery — Stivison explores the notion of seeds from both literal and metaphorical perspectives. She sees potential for change hidden within us as seeds buried in the ground, both filled with untapped promise. 

Using the language of color, light and form, Heather Stivison explores a more holistic vision of the world. Her work crosses boundaries between disciplines, in particular between her life-long passions for art and science. The daughter of a scientist as well as the mother of a scientist, it is at the nexus of these fields that she has set her stake in the future—that of promoting harmony between humans and the natural world. Literature is an ever-present source material—everything from Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass inform “Seeds of Change.” 

Heather Stivison, Ecoscape: Source, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 x 2 inches

Stivison’s pictorial worlds teem with life and the beginnings of life… pods, seedlings, whirlybirds from maple trees, DNA strands, dandelion puffs dispersing, a bee, are interspersed with all manner of mark-making, including circles made of hatch-marks, wandering lines, spirals, and other symbols that refer to the artist’s long-time interest in prehistoric rock art and the magical thinking these early expressions of humanity may represent.

Stivison’s paintings have a luminous glow—accomplished by the artist building up layer upon layer of viscous paint, which she pours, smears, scrapes and otherwise manipulates to create fields of color that conjure the watery depths of the ocean or intergalactic space, depending on the palette. Within these spaces her ethereal forms, delicately outlined in white, blues, purples and gold, give off light as they float through the veiled layers of color. There is a sense that you can reach right into the paintings.  

Heather Stivison, Ecoscape: Rebirth, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 x 2 inches

The overall suggestion is one of movement and growth—always in a state of becoming, invoking the idea of the universe. Angled lines shoot across the canvas, while constellations of dots and tiny circles may refer to molecules, underwater bubbles, or to exploding stars. They read as systems of information, or early forms of language written by the more than human world—that are not only beyond time, but beyond spatial dimension as well. 

Heather Stivison, Ecoscape: Morning, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 x 2 inches
Heather Stivison, Ecoscape: Energy 2, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 x 2 inches

The magic of the work lies in Stivison’s ability to create worlds that are at once primordial and prescient, while using abstraction to speak to abstract ideas of our place and responsibility within the universe. 

Many of the works are small—some thirteen are only 12 x12 inches. The larger works get to the heart of the story of “Seeds of Change.” One quadriptych, the Winter of Our Discontent, spans fourteen feet across. The 36×36-inch panels begin with fall and winter, and as the images progress, a pregnant female form emerges from her leafy environment, and ends with new life being nurtured in summer. They speak to the intimacy of our relationship with nature, and perhaps a larger cosmic vision of the wisdom of embracing the feminine energy that birthed us all. Stivison remarks, “that’s what these paintings are about: Seeds of Change. Hope. And transformation.”

Heather Stivison, The Winter of Our Discontent, 2023, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 x 2 inches

Heather Stivison: Seeds of Change: Paintings of Climate Change and Hope,” Pleiades Gallery, 547 W27th St., Suite 304, New York, NY. March 21 through April 15, 2023.

About the author: Independent curator Kathy Imlay’s career in the art world spans several decades. Shortly after 9/11 she founded Imlay Fine Art at the southern edge of the World Trade Center. Now known as Imlay Gallery, her exhibition program and off-site projects focus on an international roster of emerging and established artists whose work carries both meaning and beauty.  


  1. Well done Heather Stivison. This article gets you. This is a body of work that speaks to the soul and the connection of everything. So amazing.

  2. Such an eloquent review of Heather’s sensitive,
    exquisite, and powerful paintings.

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