Painting

An Interview With Surreal Salon 10 Winner Heidi Taillefer

February 22, 2018

The winner of Surreal Salon 10, a submission based art competition hosted by Baton Rouge Gallery, is Heidi Taillefer, with her piece Starting Something You Can't Finish. Taillefer is no stranger to the art world, she has been featured in Juxtapoz, as well as having solo shows with major galleries like Copro Gallery, Joshua Liner Gallery, and Galerie Matthew Namour. We're excited to be able to feature her once again, find out a little more of her background, and what's going on more recently for her. 

What are your art roots? Do you feel like you come from a particular tradition?
I was born into a very artistic and creative family in Montreal, Quebec; my older brother and mother are both artists in their own right, so there was always something interesting going on. I never studied art academically in college or university, but I did take private art classes as a child for 10 years, which, combined with my family's influence, made me into the artist I am today. My mother never let us use coloring books, rather we had to draw everything out before coloring it, and this helped develop my drawing skills tremendously. I loved surrealism growing up, and acquired the moniker of "dragon lady" in my childhood art classes, because I was also obsessed with dragons for some time. I was also really into robots and science fiction in my teens, and this found its way into my work up until today, which was pushed further in those art classes I took. I ended up as a commercial illustrator early into my career for about 10 years, working largely with companies such as the Cirque du Soleil on numerous projects. I parlayed my artistic style into many of my commercial activities, while pursuing a fine art career with Yves Laroche Gallery in Montreal, until I started showing internationally after 2005. But, I don't feel like I come from any particular tradition in art, other than that I was taught figurative art as a child, and had the freedom to let my imagination go where it wanted.

You paint a lot of variations on animals, what about animals do you find intriguing to paint?
Animals are fascinating because of all the variety they offer to the artist. Biologically they can offer up different "mechanisms" if you will, either by being born out of some sort of egg, or by having so many breasts, or a pouch, or just by the sheer force they might represent, be it power, beauty, ugliness or strangeness. I often base the design of an animal on its existing body structure, and incorporate hinges or hydraulics or whatever I can think of into it's silhouette, and it usually works well with animals especially. I did do a few pregnant women because I love the mecanism of the womb, but people aren't as easy to feature, I find.

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What ideas and concepts have been on your mind a lot lately?
I'm quite interested in more monochromatic pieces lately, maybe because it's winter now and everything is pure white around me. It's beautiful, the way light and shadows play off of snow, so I'm considering pieces that include a large variety of whites and soft purples or blues, combined with contrasting tones like beige or brown, and I'd like to include a vivid splash of color somewhere as a focal point and to add energy to the whole thing. As far as my artistic style, I'd like for my work to become more abstract, or a combination of abstract and figurative work. I have produced a few works like that in the past, and use some of what I learned in the backgrounds I paint, but I'd like for the work to make less visual sense when looking at it, and be more of a curiosity.

Is the piece you submitted to Surreal Salon 10 part of a larger body of work that you've been working on?
I only produced a second image related to the piece I submitted to the salon, but I had wanted to do a series on symmetry originally, using the ink blot theme for the background of each piece. I came back from Havana a couple years ago and thought it would be great to work on a series featuring the various saints found in Santeria, so I did one featuring "Yemaya", who represents Mary in Christianity. Symmetry was a particular interest of mine when I produced "Starting Something You Can't Finish," and it's still on the backburner. My issue is that I get so busy, and the works take so long to do, that time flies and I hardly have a chance to complete a series unless I'm hammering away on one for a particular show.

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Do you have any upcoming shows that you're looking forward to?
Right now I have a few pieces heading to Beinart Gallery in Australia for a show on cats. I'm in a bit of a transition phase right now too because I don't have my larger studio after getting married and moving, and I have become my father's primary caretaker (he has Alzheimers,) so I can only work on commissions, and can't really prepare for an entire show at this time. Eventually, I will be able to dedicate more time to studio work, and I'm hoping that I'll have a huge bankroll of ideas ready to keep me busy for years.

Thanks Heidi!