in Interviews | 01 JUN 10
Featured in
Issue 132

Questionnaire: Mary Heilmann

What do you like the look of? Waves breaking: little ones and big ones

in Interviews | 01 JUN 10

I took this picture of Pat Hearn in 1996 at Regen Projects in LA while Jack Pierson was installing his show there. That was a fun trip.

What images keep you company in the space where you work?
A Mel Bochner Pythagorean triangle piece from the 1970s, a Marilyn Minter distressed lipstick painting from the 1980s, photographs by Seydou Keïta and Samuel Fosso, and a drawing Christopher Knowles made when he was working with Robert Wilson. A picture of Charles and Ray Eames’ living room in Santa Monica, the Saul Bass movie poster for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), a Cory Arcangel road video game image and my favourite artist and CalArts Mafia guy, the late Jack Goldstein. I also have a beautiful drawing by Billy Sullivan of my friend, Jack Pierson, and a photo of Jack’s sculpture Applause (1996) at Regen Projects in Los Angeles with Pat Hearn standing in front of it.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
When I was little my father read to us from a book called A Child’s History of Art (1933) by V. M. Hillyer, and the first things I loved were the Egyptian sphinxes and pyramids. A few chapters later came the Mona Lisa (1503–6) and not long after, the Nat King Cole hit, ‘Mona Lisa’ (1950) came on the radio. Serious, deep art and popular music were intertwined for me from the very beginning. When I was about seven, I went away to camp and our art counsellor taught us how to do ‘Modern Art’ by drawing loopy lines around and around the page and then filling the loops in with different colours. I never forgot that.

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?
I see a two-acre field from my studio window and I always visualize a Richard Serra tilted arc piece out there.

What is your favourite title of an art work?
The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (1967) by Bruce Nauman.

What do you wish you knew?
How to speak Spanish.

What should change?
No more war.

What should stay the same?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I guess I’m good with everything changing all the time.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
I would be a journalist.

What music are you listening to?
My favourite thing to listen to is Henry Rollins’ radio programme online on KCRW, Santa Monica, where I get tonnes of ideas about what music to play. It’s archived so I can listen to it constantly. Check it out. A great new band is The Horrors. ‘Sea Within a Sea’ (2009) is a song of theirs I like.

What are you reading?
On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno (2008) by David Sheppard.

What is art for?
To take us to a spiritual, high place.

Mary Heillman is an artist who lives and works in New York, USA. Her show at Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin, Germany, is on until 5 June and ‘On the Road’, at Artpace San Antonio, USA, closes on 5 September. Heilmann’s work will be included in ‘ambigu: Zeitgenössische Malerei zwischen Abstraktion und Narration’ (Ambiguity: Contemporary Painting between Abstraction and Narration), Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland, 5 June – 13 September.