Heide Pitre: The Wink of an Artist’s Eye

Photo Pitre One Green Dot

“One Green Dot”: If you look closely, you’ll see it on her shirt

When Heidi Pitre’s Uncle Willy Willy Lump Lump suggested she draw freehand rather than trace pictures from the cover of a Charlie Brown book, the artist had no idea that his 5-year-old niece had such talent. All these years later, she can’t help but smile and wonder what he would think of her painting “One Green Dot” currently appearing on billboards across Austin. A winner of the latest Austin Art Boards Competition, her latest collection “Southern Peculiar” colorfully depicts heartwarming scenes of the South, presented with a lighthearted twist.

Pitre calls herself a narrative painter. She invents a story, creates a scene and then entices you to scrutinize it until you find your own ending. Her style is bold and realistic without being surreal, captivating you into taking yet another look to see if there was something you might have missed.

There’s no place better than New Orleans for a budding artist to grow up. Its eclectic music, cuisine, architecture and celebrations combined with the city’s freewheeling, creative spirit reassured her that a little bit of quirkiness and eccentricity was always welcome. At the University of New Orleans, she changed her major to Fine Arts, not sure how she would make a living, but determined to do so.

Once her daughters were on their own, Pitre decided it was finally time to dedicate herself to taking her career a step further. Utilizing her organizational skills and business acumen, she set out to learn the art business, established goals and never looked back. When fellow artists touted Austin for its opportunities, camaraderie and generous spirit, she packed up her moxie and made it her home.

While attending an art residency, her love of libraries and reading led her to inquire whether she could remove the old library cards from their books. Given the OK, her stack grew until one day she began to sketch artwork on the card. As Pitre explains “Each repurposed card is unique, with the artwork added to represent a pivotal moment or theme from the book or a play on words of the title. Retired from their first career, these once forgotten pieces of paper have started new lives as ambassadors for the books they once lived in” Now these new cards, complete with artwork, live around the world with private collectors or hang in galleries and exhibitions. Reproducing them has made them available to a wider audience and a book entitled “A Permanent Record” recounts their story.

EPSON MFP image

Always in search of the bizarre, she had no choice but to purchase some vintage flash cards she came across one day. In her newest collection, she sketches on the cards, her play on words mingling childhood innocence with adult humor.

Heidi Pitre has successfully honed her curiosity, sense of humor and artistic talents into a one- woman, avant-garde show of everything that will tickle you, inspire you and remind you to celebrate the long forgotten. See what she’s up to at heidipitre.com.

 

Author’s Note:
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Touched by an Artist’s Power and Purpose  

Photo Jenn Hassin

She was not what I expected. The pretty young woman that stood before us in the art gallery smiled demurely, as she was introduced. It was when she began to speak about her art and her life that I became captivated. There was a power that came from her words. Jenn Hassin spoke with an authority that is usually honed through age and experience.

Hers was a life filled with clashes of the presumed and the unexpected: not the childhood one would hope for, a family friend turned mentor, a stint in the military, a college degree in studio art, a divorce, a single mom, a second marriage, another child and a happy, supportive extended family made up of an ex-husband and his parents. Her personality celebrated a dichotomy of military precision and artistic creativeness. This helped to explain how she single handedly was able to get her work, Letters of Sacrifice, exhibited at the Pentagon.

Kintsugi: that was the philosophy that this exhibit was based on. Jenn went on to explain that the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold dusted lacquer treats breakage and repair as a part of the object’s history. Rather than disguising the damage, it works to make it more beautiful.

Jenn’s art installation entitled Embrace the Damage took over the entire wall. As Jen explained, “…The wall of current newspapers from the U.S. and around the world are folded and assembled in a chaotic, yet systematic manner. They represent my personal feelings regarding the overwhelming nature of our current sociopolitical climate. The woven gold braid meandering through it signifies the crack in society and the beauty and strength that can and will prevail for having gone through our current tensions…”

The second part of the installation, Listen and Repair, was interactive. According to Jenn, “…One of the biggest problems we face today is that we do not listen to one another. This offers the opportunity to cut and then mend a tablecloth together; to commune with one another. A gold thread will be used to mend the tablecloth, creating a seam and a border that both divides and connects. I encourage those who participate to converse with one another. You will be sitting on garments and blankets from around the world; talk to one another about culture or about what is going on around the world. Connect or debate, but above all, hear one another. The outcome of the work when the exhibit ends is to create an image of what listening looks like…”

As she spoke, everything took on a new perspective. Jenn, so youthful, became the wise old sage. Her art, subtle in its tone, transformed itself into a powerful and intense message.

Jenn Hassin’s art is a rich composite of the atypical experiences that have shaped her life. Along with the hands of the many volunteer veterans that have touched so many of her works and helped her to bring her messages to life, so will you be deeply touched.