Drawing inspiration from her environment in Savannah, this spring’s Featured Artist, Heather MacRae-Trulson, uses her art to discuss the environment and the effect our choices have on it. “It developed into the idea of human influence on the environment, specifically, certain structures and systems we exist in and build for ourselves, and their effect on us and our local habitat.” Using acrylic paint and other materials, MacRae-Trulson expresses the feelings and emotions of moving through her environment on her canvas. She is adamant that interactions with her environment are colored by emotional responses, and cannot simply be reproduced in a representational image. “I take the time to soak things up, move through the city streets observing.” Her paintings then tend to evolve organically. Her ideas are jotted down on paper, but rarely does she sketch before beginning a new piece. Rather, she allows her ideas and emotional responses build in her head before beginning to work. “I wait for these things to compile, and present themselves as gestures, layers and marks.”
MacRae-Trulson used to work in specific canvas sizes and ratios, but she has recently been experimenting outside of her usual comfort zone. “Lately the work I have been doing finds itself at home on small traditional rectangular canvases.” Despite this change, her approach to the blank canvas is the same. “There is a period of sitting and staring at the blank canvas, then a frenzy of action – pouring, scribbling, brushing frantically – all to get the ball rolling. Then I sit back and wait.” This second phase of observation allows her to start to fine-tune her vision and to see what other media (conte crayon, graphite, charcoal, ink) might be needed. She has not formalized this process, and this period of reflection allows her to determine what to do next, or if more work is even needed. “Sometimes I don’t know if I’m just stopped for the day or if I’m done with that piece. So I have other pieces around to work on preventing me from killing something by going back into it too much when it’s finished.”
Every person who is able to pursue something they are truly passionate about is lucky. Given her work and the joy she takes in painting, MacRae-Trulson concedes that she is very lucky. “Success in art means painting every day and paying your bills while still being able to look your reflection in the eye.” Her abstract style is engaging and expressive, which is truly what she aspires to. “There is a wonderful snowball effect that happens when you take things that you are inspired by and try to put them down on canvas, they wrap up into themselves and take on a new life ‒ the painting is given space to exist as its own inspirational object.”
Heather MacRae-Trulson is The Kiernan Gallery's first non-photographic artist.