Exploring botanical forms as well as nature’s patterns and geometry is the driving force in Kezia Hearn’s work. This local artist’s love of art and nature comes through in a powerful way.
Litchfield County boasts a rich and diverse artistic culture, thanks to the many transplanted New Yorkers whom we now call “our own”, but you can’t get any more “local” than contemporary artist Kezia Hearn, for she is no stranger to this land of rolling hills and bucolic pastures. Hearn not only grew up here, she took art classes at the Washington Art Association as a young child, and has been involved in the community most of her life. She was raised in Washington, Connecticut, where her parents owned and ran the Morning Glory Flower Shop which was started by her great grandfather who emigrated from England. “I grew up surrounded by plants and flowers in the greenhouses, so I developed a knowledge and affinity for botanical life at an early age.” She earned her undergraduate degree in Studio Art from Clark University, and attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. As part of her undergraduate studies, she spent a semester studying art in the Provence region of France. A few years ago she also received her Master’s degree in Holistic Thinking.
As a young child, Kezia showed an interest in art. “From the earliest I can remember, I enjoyed drawing and painting. It seemed to just come naturally to me.” When she was in first grade, her teacher had a talk with her mother about a drawing Kezia had done. “It was of a person lying in a bed…she pointed out to my mom that I’d rendered the shape of the feet popping up under the blanket and that this was sophisticated for my age. My mom subsequently encouraged me to draw more, buying me sketchbooks and enrolling me in children’s art classes at the Washington Art Association. I continued to draw on my own at home, often setting up still-lifes involving flowers and other objects. My parents provided a very creative and imaginative atmosphere to grow up in and kept encouraging my artistic development throughout high school and into my college years.”
The artistic vein runs in her family. There were—and still are— many relatives who are artists and artisans. “My grandmother Muriel was a weaver. She would spin her own yarn from the sheep on my grandparents’ farm in Vermont. My uncle Ricky Hearn is a painter. My aunt Linda Banks is also a local artist, working in glass. Floral artistry also runs through multiple generations.”
Looking at Kezia’s incredibly beautiful paintings, there seems to be a simplicity and spareness that evokes an Asian aesthetic. When asked about it, she explains, “My work is influenced by my interest in Eastern thinking and philosophy as well as my love of nature and plants. I find inspiration in the elegant simplicity of Japanese woodblock prints. Some of my paintings reflect this aesthetic, but there are often subtle layers of detailed pattern and form emerging from the background. I like to think each painting is capturing the simplicity and complexity in each moment. I can render what is seen with the eye, as well what might be taking place on a microscopic level, a cosmic level, and energetically. I also like to make connections with larger cycles and time. This is referenced in the repeating circular forms in my work, as well as in the titles.”
The central theme in Hearn’s pieces is the natural world. “I am inspired by the celestial and the botanical…the endless multiplicity of nature’s designs. My body of work is very diverse—it doesn’t fit a typical category. It can range from abstract paintings of patterns, to watercolor inspired by microscopic life forms, to oil paintings of plant life…and more recently to installation art.” In her studio one finds many three-dimensional pieces, here and there, on her work table, and attached to some of her panels. These look like sculpture made of different materials. “Some of the ceramic work I’ve created recently is sculpture. However, most of it is installation. I’ve been working in cut mica and clay. I’m translating the concepts I was working with on paper and canvas into the third dimension. One larger ceramic piece I’m developing is made up of many coiled clay cones—mounted on the wall together they start to resemble some sort of coral or hive…patterns start to emerge from the relationship of each piece to the next.”
Mica is not a material one associates with creating art, yet Kezia has also been exploring the fragile reflective quality of mica through other installation work. “These pieces involve cutting the mica into round discs and drawing/painting on both sides of the mica. I then use pins to mount the pieces to the wall in a sort of cluster or pattern. The imagery is more cellular and mandala-like but the effect is very ethereal. I am exploring the concept of interconnectedness, not only of each object but of light and shadow. Lighting has become an essential element in these works because the shadow is what brings them to life—yin and yang.”
Hearn’s special connection with nature is not surprising given her childhood experiences— indeed, she is also a professional gardener. She designs and installs perennial gardens, and maintains them as well. She also occasionally does floral design. “I find this work to be very similar to my art making. Creating a garden is like making a living painting that grows and changes with time, as we do. In addition, a garden provides food and habitat for many creatures. I enjoy collaborating with nature…a great teacher. I find it keeps me connected to the earth…something that has become a challenge in our technological age. “Because of my upbringing with plants and my many years of gardening, I have developed a very close relationship with plants. Through my art, I am honoring their presence in my life—all of the beauty, medicine, food, and fragrance they provide. I enjoy exploring both botanical forms and the underlying patterns and geometry that occur in nature on a micro and macrocosmic level. Studying plants and flowers from my garden under a microscope is a hobby that has inspired the imagery in my work.”
Although Kezia’s art has changed over the years, it has mainly revolved around botanical forms and pattern since art school. She did some figurative work in the past, but it didn’t inspire her at the time. By looking at Hearn’s work, one soon realizes that circles appear prominently in her compositions. “My work seems to continue to change and evolve as I do. Circular forms are a thread that runs through all of my work.”
A few years ago, Hearn obtained a Masters degree in holistic thinking. Asked how this has influenced her work, she replies, “My studies in holistic thinking increased my awareness of the interconnectedness of life on the level of quantum physics. We are always in relationship. In my work I have been interested in exploring this concept of interconnectedness and I’m doing that with the recent installations I’ve been creating…where many parts relate to create a larger colony or network…similar to a coral reef. The “Bento series” of work I created was inspired by the study and use of Feng Shui principles in my life. I’ve also been working with mandalas as a form of meditation and healing.”
In addition to her endeavours in gardening, holistic thinking, and making art, Kezia also teaches art to children. “It is my way of giving back and hopefully inspiring a love of art in the lives of the future generation. I find that children are a pleasure to work with because they are still very connected to their own creative spirit and the simple joys of life.” She also teaches yoga to children. A few years ago she started integrating mindfulness practices into her art classroom. “I begin my classes in a quiet circle, then I play a Tibetan singing bowl. I usually guide the class in a meditation (aka. “imaginary journey”) and some simple breathing exercises. It has worked wonders in helping to calm and focus the students’ attention during art class. It also helps students to actively engage and nurture their imagination…something we need more of in order to solve the problems of this world.”
These days, Kezia Hearn is not represented by a gallery and her work is mainly collected by private individuals. She also has worked by commission for several designers in New York and Connecticut. From April 12-May 23, Hearn will have her latest work, a series of wall mounted ceramics installations, in a group show called Your Spirit Don’t Leave Knowing at the Studio Switch Factory in Bantam, an artist’s studio and gallery run by Jessica Jane Perkel. This show is not to be missed. See the listing for this event in our GOINGS ON section this month.
To see more of Kezia Hearn’s work, go to her website: www.keziahearn.com
To purchase her work or to contact Kezia Hearn, email her at: [email protected]