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Employing the unconventional medium of latex house paint as a resist for her handmade watercolor paints, New York-based painter, Katie Heffelfinger builds atmospheric abstracts that explore patterns in nature and the meaning we make from them. 

Detail from Magnolia by Jodie Fletcher 


From the preparation of the paper substrate on which she paints, to her hand mixed, small batch paints, process and materiality are central to Heffelfinger’s artistic practice. Working with watercolor is a far more complex endeavor than simply putting brush to paper, and her relationship with the medium is almost alchemical. Underpinning Heffelfinger’s mesmerizing abstracts are a series of chemical interactions between pigment and binder; resist and watercolor; paper and paint. Experimenting with funori (a seaweed harvested in Japan and traditionally used in bookbinding and art conservation) in her watercolor medium in place of the standard binder of gum arabic has enabled Heffelfinger to both strengthen the quality of her latex resist, and draw more richness from the iridescent mica she mixes into her paints. The resulting paintings embody next just physical depth from the raised latex resist, but the changeable, mirage-like depth of reflected light on the shimmering mica. 


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Inspired by everything from the Fibonacci sequence, to the I Ching, to the Aboriginal artists of the Australian Outback, Heffelfinger synthesizes her disparate (and ever-growing) influences into universally compelling patterns onto which the viewer can project myriad conceptual and formal narratives. She views the relationships between her paintings and their viewers as generative, as well, encouraging collectors and curators to play with their orientation observe how the pieces change and shift with the light. By inviting their new stewards to continue the process of experimentation, Katie Heffelfinger’s paintings exist along a continuum, leading vibrant, dynamic lives even after they leave her studio.

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