Heidi Hehn is crazy for ravens. It’s a taste she shares with many northerners. These big, black, intelligent birds bring wilderness into the city. Sometimes they bring that wildness closer than you’d like it, for example, when they tear apart the garbage in the back of a pickup truck.
However, many people really appreciate their company.
Hehn finds in ravens “a metaphor for people.” She feels they hold up a mirror to human society, and offer “someone to socialize with in the winter months.”
Hehn’s raven-themed paintings take up two alcoves in the North End Gallery, located at Steele and Wood Streets in Whitehorse in the Horwoods’ Mall. The show, called Raven Mad, features conversational statements beside each painting, musing about ravens and human society.
She works in fluid acrylics, creating smooth surfaced canvases in medium sizes. Sometimes Hehn uses very few colours in her palette. Her painting “Last call,” for example, is largely purple, with yellow used as an accent. It’s a nostalgic reflection on the disappearance of the phone booth. A yellow full moon sails in a light violet sky above snow covered mountains with carefully rendered ridges. Hehn depicts a whimsical phone booth constructed of logs. Moose antlers on the top, perhaps serving as some kinds of satellite dish to bring in signals to this remote location, catch and cradle the yellow moonlight. An oil lamp hangs from one antler prong. Four ravens perch atop the branching antlers.
In others she uses a wider variety of colours. In “Social Networking,” ravens gather around an iPhone in a coffee shop, talon on the touchscreen. People in the background drink their beverages and look at their phones. The ravens contain a lot of colour, and retain a drawn quality. You can see the lines Hehn has used to trace their feathers.
Bright red livens many of the paintings. In “Turkey Telegraph,” ravens on a wire, again under a full moon, perch against mountains in pale lavender and brilliant red. The effect of the colours has an unsettling edge, perhaps the madness Hehn refers to in her title.
“A River Romance” evokes a sweeter feeling. Two ravens bill and coo in a canoe. Warm orange light suffuses the sky and river.
Hehn includes some of her vintage car and raven pairings. It’s a combination she’s used before, and she seems to have an affinity for these Mustangs and Chevrolets.
In many of these paintings, Hehn covers the canvas with a single colour. This strategy ties the work together. You can see the colour come out between her brushstrokes. If this kind of technical detail interests you, check the edges of her paintings. You can often discern what colour of underpainting she’s used.
Because Hehn was out of town at the beginning of the month, the North End Gallery will celebrate Raven Mad with a closing rather than an opening reception. Meet the artist on April 29 from 5 to 7 p.m.