Claira Heitzenrater


Claira Heitzenrater (b. 1988) is a contemporary painter living and working in Dubois, Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA in painting from Edinboro University (2016), and a BFA in Studio Art from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2012). She was featured in issue 11 of Fresh Paint Magazine, issue 38 of Studio Visit Magazine, and various regional publications. She completed residencies at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT and Sparkbox Studio in Ontario, Canada.


One of the great truths in life is that nothing lasts forever. Throughout our lifetime, we are subject to impermanence in myriad ways: death, fleeting moments, and the loss of objects and memories. Even a child, I possessed 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 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. 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 explores impermanence through the alternative avenue of living in the present moment with the constant mantra of "remember that you have to die", the English translation of the phrase “memento mori”. In order to fully accept impermanence, one might choose to fall in love with life itself in order to experience it fully. This group of paintings aims to capture brief moments in time, surrounded in love and warmth, while still employing the ghosts of lives past.