laira Heitzenrater (b.1988) is a recent MFA graduate in painting at Edinboro University (Summa Cum Laude), where she also studied printmaking. She lives and works in Punxsutawney, PA. She has a particular affinity for cats and coffee.
One of the great truths in life is that nothing lasts forever. Throughout our lifetime, we are subject to impermanence in a myriad of ways; death, fleeting moments, and the loss of objects and memories. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a heightened awareness of death: the constant reminder of my own transience is both provocative and terrifying. Initially serving as a catalyst for existential anxiety, I utilize that fear to drive my work in hopes of discovering and accepting that I am not meant to exist as a permanent fixture in the world, but rather as a temporary impression on its surface.
In my paintings, I harness this state of flux, employing varying degrees of abstraction and rendering to reinforce absence and presence with my observed forms. I apply and scrape away paint, removing portions of the composition to create “ghosts” within the picture plane, which function as not only a present spirit or manifestation, but also an absent memory. I deliver content to the viewer via the use of surrogates for people, being viewed from an outside perspective, their relationships mimicking that of human interaction.
The surrogates I place in my paintings are of a domestic nature, spanning teabags to antique spindles of thread. I choose domestic objects as they are meant to be handled by human hands in order to function, further promoting their familiarity. These objects flaunt their deterioration from use, supporting the emotionality of each piece.
My current body of work, Chasing the Ghost, has given me the opportunity to take on my own fears associated with expiration, helping me to be more at peace with myself and to enjoy the fleeting moments we share with those around us. Through this series, I hope to achieve a sense of calm acceptance of the reality that life; much like everything else, it must come to an end. It is our duty to embrace the unequivocal beauty of an ephemeral existence; as a great man once said, “No one gets out of here alive”.