“and there I come to meet myself...”
– St. Augustine, Confessions Bk. 10
There are two kinds of fields of wheat. One of them is farmed by an AgCorp, can be measured with a yard stick, and turns so much of a profit a year. The other waves in the wind like a huge golden serpent, hissing at the sky. The first exists on some silent planet, while the other is a bright and ringing field of shifting associations, without which the Gospel itself could not be communicated. This is the field that is ‘worked’ by artist, Heidi Petersen, and it is very dangerous work for an artist to do. Dangerous because of the communicative stakes involved. Spiritual insights proceed by nature, from the singular and internal. Even when they have ‘salt’ beyond the individual, there is no guarantee that they can be made material in any way that compels viewing; The distance from the heart to the eye can be a formidable gulf. Ms. Petersen bridges that gulf with consistent, if hard won, ease. Her assemblage pieces in particular combine a nuanced sense of the ‘visibility’ of things, their ability to shed conventional associations, and a rigorous sense of arrangement. When do buttons become prayer beads? How are blackberry branches barbed-wire? Who turned the funky baby doll into the savior of the world? Of course, there are no answers to these questions, only the mute awareness of what is made.
All kinds of objects can and do function metaphorically. In the case of Ms. Petersen however, there clearly is a well-defined sense of what a useful or collectible ‘thing’ is. She tends to accrue objects that evidence time, that phenomenon that appears to us as memory; humanity’s peculiar experience of time. Listening to the memory of objects is of course, reflection, that aggressive twin of memory and solvent of conventional associations. In that sense, she meets her reflection (s) in her materials. Even when objects are acquired ‘new’, they are subjected to entropic activity ( the burning of those elegant white candles in ‘Vigil’ for example). Reflection by nature reveals the heart “For it is out of the heart that comes...”, so what is revealed in these works? They are characterized by votive objects, morality tales, confessions and dogmatic meditations. Many of these are very large in scope (The Loss of Eden) while others are quite small (Daily Mirrors). In short, we become the privileged viewers of an interior conversation with the woof and warp of the life of Faith. Without proselytize, we are asked to confront small revelations in the arrangement of common and uncommon objects, seen as if a golden serpent.
Duncan Simcoe, 2004