Heidi Howard paints portraits of friends and family. The paintings on view began in November 2015 with a personal invitation Howard made to friends, asking them to come to her studio with a piece of fabric on which their portrait would be painted. The small gouaches on fabric are the paintings Howard made with the sitters during their visits to her studio. Howard’s depictions of the fabric’s owners reveal a cosmology of relationships between object, memory, and our lived experience. Howard responds compositionally to the patterned fabric in her effort to weave it into the portrait of its owner. In some cases she chooses to make the portrait less visible or almost out of sight, and in other cases strong and prominent.
Most of Howard’s larger canvases use fabric or poses from the gouaches as points of departure. The larger surfaces are canvas primed with layers of white gesso. On the smooth surfaces Howard’s loose seemingly quick movements, drawn with a procession of staccato marks are reminiscent of weaving and threads, of the pieces of cloth she had been painting on for the Fabric Project. The white gessoed surface allows for a transparency of mark and a clarity of line, that contrasts with the rough surfaces of many of the sitter’s fabrics, and also with the rough rabbit skin glued surfaces Howard painted on from 2012 to 2016.
For Howard, portraiture is more than creating an image or portrait of the sitter before her. It is for her an opening to something deep and rewarding that takes place between two friends, the sitter and the artist.