We spoke to the artist about his solo show opening tonight from 6-8pm at White Columns, Little League baseball, and painting from life. Look for Daniel Heidkamp in group shows at Zach Feuer and Jack Hanley later this summer.
What are the new paintings hanging at White Columns like?
The show is comprised of oil paintings inspired by the grounds behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many of the paintings were made live on the spot and from direct observation, and others were developed later in the studio. I chose this setting because in addition to it being beautiful Central Park terrain— blossoms, tree canopies, modernist and classical architecture—I’m interested in the idea of the museum as a symbol. It is the safe house of our finest art—painting on these grounds suggests how the landscape can never escape the weight of history. While painting there I’m outside of the institution, removed, but still communing and connecting with the masters. The image of the Met—the walls and glass—seems impenetrable, but in the paintings there is slippage, moments that break through.
Tell us about your slugger paintings shown at NADA. What was the genesis of these; what inspired you?
I have a wild two-year-old baby who runs all over the place. I had the thought that if he’s in Little League when he’s older, I could make great paintings of him and his friends playing ball. The vision of the slugger kept popping into my mind, and I realized what I was picturing was my own experience playing as a kid. I found early Little League pictures at my childhood home, dug through my old baseball card collection, and made some observational paintings of friends posing as “the slugger”. As this series developed, I realized that the slugger is less about baseball and more about the stance, a gesture, a pose, and the energy and humor that is required to move through life. In some of the paintings all the signifiers of baseball—the stirrups, the bat, the hat—are removed and all that’s left is a guy sluggin’. Sometimes he strikes out.
Would you speak about scaling your work? You had one particularly large painting at Marlborough Chelsea and we imagine that would change your process a good deal.
When painting small I have a sense of freedom, flow, and fearlessness. My goal is to have that same energy on the big scale. It’s tricky, and it requires a lot of preparation, big brushes, more paint, and most importantly an idea or image that holds up. I enjoy the illusionistic possibilities of going big. Painting a person that is larger than life creates a physical reaction, and painting a landscape that is as expansive as your actual focal range can be beguiling—the viewers can put themselves in the picture.
What about working en plein air? Would you tell us why this important to your paintings?
Painting from life is the central core of my project. As a representational painter, it’s important for me to see my subject unfiltered and unmediated. When painting “en plein air” I feel the atmosphere on my skin, I can see in every direction, and unexpected nuances appear in the art. There is an adrenaline feeling that happens while working “live” and that energy can translate directly into the painting. I don’t use an easel, I put my canvas on the ground, in the grass or dirt, and I dig in.