For the past thirty-five years or so I have been a furniture and cabinet maker. In the 1980s and 90s I wrote and illustrated a number of children's books, as well as one-of-a-kind art books. Until recently, I had also been doing large abstract drawings in various mediums.
Working by myself all the time I got into the habit of listening to the radio for company - music of all kinds and the news. An unintended consequence of this practice was a new and growing awareness, and subsequent sense of outrage, at what was going on in the world around me.
To the Royal Guards in this Realm we are all Victims in Waiting: Portrait of Edward Snowden by Nick Heller
Royal Guards Detail
I found that I was becoming dissatisfied with the artwork I had been creating, and came to the realization that my work needed to reflect and comment upon the rampant injustices in our society. But how was I to go about doing this, while still satisfying my deep desire to create beautiful objects?
Then in 2014, on vacation in Quebec City, I had the good fortune to wander into an exhibit at the Museum of Civilization - Haïti in Extremis exhibit: Death and Life in 21st Century Haitian Art. Among the extraordinarily powerful works on
display were several Voudou beaded flags - images created by sewing beads and sequins onto fabric. From the moment I laid eyes on them, I knew that was what I would be doing for the rest of my life.
"The Fortunate must not be Restrained in their Exercise of Tyranny over the Unfortunate" - Bertrand Russell's 1st tenet of Capitalism
Variation on a theme - "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." - Audre Lorde
I returned to my home in Portland, Maine, got hold of some beads and sequins, and began working with an intensity and sense of purpose that I have never before experienced. Each piece takes from two or three hundred hours to complete, which gives me a great deal of time to reflect upon what I am trying to accomplish.
Eve & Adam 1 - First in a series
My subject matter is social injustice. My goal is to create an image that is both powerful and thought provoking, but also beautiful in an abstract manner that transcends its message, reflecting the paradox that in life, beauty and horror often coexist.
You can see some of Nicholas Heller's other illustration work on his website, and his Facebook page.