Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FOUND: Artist Warren Heard at Find Gallery

A few months ago, artist Warren Heard disappeared from the eVocal studio. No phone calls, no sight of him walking the streets of Costa Mesa, no word of his whereabouts. This local artist fell off the map, and it appeared that the entirety of his vast collection might soon fade away as well. Until one day, while driving down Superior Ave., I glanced to the left, and discovered him in the window of the Find Gallery, one of the newest installations to the Costa Mesa art scene. Just inside the wide window pane of the spot sat Heard, paintbrush in hand, with his head lifted toward the simple wooden easel holding his next masterpiece. From then on, each time down Superior, my head would swivel toward the Find Gallery to catch a glimpse of Warren working away. Most times, as expected, he is there, protecting his collection, constantly creating additions, and waiting patiently for his first major exhibition in years.

Born into a tumultuous life in Venice Beach during the 1950s, Heard remembers, “The smog and the heat, the congestion and the crowds. Everybody was on edge, irritable, and not happy.” He inevitably became inspired by the chaotic world around him, artists like Rick Griffin, and the expansion of rock and roll. “I can’t paint in silence,” he explains, “There has to be audible things going through my brain at the same time. If there’s no music, then I’m unplugged, and things won’t flow.” As a young man, Heard took a dishwashing job at a local eatery in Venice, then eventually moved into the kitchen. His experiences as a novice chef helped him recognize that fine dining was the epitome of creative expression, just like the drawings and painting he continued to work on diligently. After a few years of experience, Heard crossed the county line into Orange County to advance his career as an accomplished chef and caterer.

Today, the bulk of Heard’s collection has taken over every inch of every wall inside the Find Gallery. He chooses to develop his imagery steadily, often taking multiple months and years to perfect his artistic expressions. The clashing urban myths Heard experienced in Orange County during his time as a chef are portrayed in his panel painting, Lost In OC, where the sprawl of suburbia and packaged theme park entertainments clash with the surf, entertainment, and culinary culture that Heard was constantly surrounded by. His images can seem a bit vulgar at times, be he explains that, “My work has to grow on you, it’s not something you immediately like. I feel like you’re drawn in, but as soon as you get up close and start to view the imagery, it pushes you away. I wouldn’t know how to put it into words, other than ‘organized chaos.’” Each composition hosts twisted, yet elegant forms that Warren has trapped between the mayhem of his intricate color-layering process and detailed line-work, creating a theme of beauty in disorder.

The personality of each work is brought to life by applying a mixed technique, using oils, pastels, and Pentel markers to precisely render anatomical features, while exploding the traditional picture plane with cubist- inspired breaks of time and color. As for knowing when the intricate details of the final product are finished, Heard claims, “For any figure, there’s probably seven layers, or stages. I let it evolve. Even compositionally, I know there will be this here and that there, but what they will look like when they’re done, I don’t know. I let it flow, I know when it’s not right.” Although Heard’s extensive collection is now protected within the walls of the Find Gallery, many of his pieces have vanished over the last decade. “This only half of it,” he states, “All the rest is gone. Sold, given away, painted over. There are five paintings under some of these pieces. They’re all completely different. They’re there, and they can see you, but you can’t see them.” Despite regretting the loss of a few key pieces, Heard is enthusiastic about retrieving the majority of them. No matter how much of his work disappears, he claims that, “I’ve gotten to a point where, it doesn’t matter, something will always keep coming. I never have a block, and I’m never not inspired. I wish I could paint three at the same time.”

On March 12th at the Find Gallery, Heard will finally reveal the remarkable power and grace of his work to the public during his first show in years. His intense style celebrates our human condition, our passions and vices, and reconnects humanity with the harsh circumstances of Southern California culture. And while he may never escape the savage reality of Orange County, Warren Heard will continue to patiently sit, accompanied by his accumulation of paint tubes, pens, and jagged wooden palates covered in dark layers of color. Day by day, he will find a way to create some sort of makeshift canvas so he can continue to steadily layer section by section of the next chaotic abstract concoction he chooses to reveal.

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