“I am hiding and revealing layers of color, line, memory and imagination with each thread sewn or mark painted.”
- Heidi Leitzke
My work is rooted in observation of nature, while exploring the realms of my imagination. I create works on paper and thread paintings depicting secret islands, lush gardens and moonlit lakes; these are places that at once feel familiar and exuberant, or haunting and not quite real. In all of my work nature serves as a symbolic expression of my human experience. As I hide and reveal layers and lines of color, I am drawing on the experiences that have shaped my life. I am not trying to render an exact likeness of any one place, but rather absorb and reflect the spirit of aliveness I find in nature.
These works on paper were made outside as I was both observing and absorbing nature. I often feel like my eyes are getting a much-needed massage as I study the shifting light and shadows falling on the landscape. My goal has recently been to find and paint locations that are layered and complex, where the space can be stacked and compressed. The resulting paintings are a synthesis of my perception, a study of the details of a particular place, and a celebration of the renewing power of nature.
She "makes islands of fabric, stitchery of many colors, threads that become trees, and bushes upon dyed linen, with applied paint, tiny things, jewel ideas, self-contained, that favorite island of the mind."
- Anthony Bannon, executive director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center
When my son was born, I found that I could no longer spend long hours in my studio painting large canvases. The process and mess of oil painting was just too much. I turned back to the cherished format of hand-held embroidery, the basics of which I learned as a child, and found a process, which was perfect for that point in my life. Now, years later, I am thankful for the life change that altered the path of my work, because what I am making feels true and exciting.
Painting with thread is intimate, malleable, and portable. When I set this work down, the needle stays where I leave it, a physical and mental cue, reminding me where to start next. The remarkable range of thread colors, layered with washes of paint, may be used in a sophisticated and painterly manner. The mark-making vocabulary I am building seems to have limitless potential. The complicated surface texture created by thread woven into linen has a seductive quality, which appeals to a human’s desire to touch. The relationship between the diminutive size of the linen rectangle is in contrast to the landscape imagery creating a subtle but compelling contradiction in these embroidered vignettes, secret gardens and islands of wonder.
Heidi Leitzke (b. Chicago 1979) grew up in Wisconsin and lives and works in Lancaster, PA. She received a BA from Anderson University and MFA from Western Carolina University. Some of her first paintings were made in Corciano, Italy while studying abroad for a semester through American University’s Art in Italy program. Her desire to work from nature grew over the two summers she spent painting in the landscape with Stanley Lewis at Chautauqua School of Art. Leitzke works in gouache and ink on paper, oil on canvas and her signature thread paintings, which are created with layers of thread and acrylic on linen. Leitzke is an Assistant Professor of Art and Director of the Eckert Art Gallery at Millersville University.