*it being recent press
Earlier this summer, Debra Lawless, a freelance writer (see her most recent book, Provincetown: A History of Artists and Renegades in a Fishing Village here) met with me at Dunkin Donuts in West Chatham during a torrential rainstorm. I first met Debra years ago when she wrote a great article on the novel, Dying to Sea, my husband, Frank, had written. We had reconnected on Facebook a few years ago, so when she contacted me this spring to ask if I would be willing to sit down with her for an interview for a local piece in the Cape Cod Chronicle, I was flattered and excited!
Below is a copy of the article:
Chatham Provides A Home For Artist Whitney Heavey
by Debra Lawless
|me trying to look natural in a crowded Dunkin Donuts|
Landscape artist Whitney Alexanderson Heavey is known for her beautiful oil paintings of water, sky and the place where the two meet.
“The thing that has inspired me my whole life is the ocean,” Heavey said during an interview one rainy morning last week in the West Chatham Dunkin’ Donuts. “It’s such a challenge to paint.”
Heavey, a Chatham summer resident since the age of 2, is, as she notes, a Pisces. Her grandmother was a painter and sculptor who walked the beach every day collecting beach glass.
Heavey herself began painting watercolors at St. George’s School in Newport, and then majored in studio art at Skidmore College, graduating in 1990. She spent her junior year abroad in Florence, Italy, an art lover’s mecca.
“It was definitely a turning point for me,” she says. “I pushed colors that year. I really broke free of the rules.”
After college she taught art at a small boarding school in Maryland. There she met her future husband Frank, who was then the head of the school’s history department. The pair returned to their roots in Massachusetts so Frank could earn a master’s degree at Harvard University, and eventually settled in Acton. (Since 2013 Frank has served as executive director of the Expect Miracles Foundation.) Heavey, meanwhile, worked as the art buyer for an educational publishing company.
“I loved that job,” she says. After the birth of her daughters — Grace is now 17 and Maddie is 15 – Heavey transitioned into her career as a professional artist. As the girls have gotten older, Heavey has found more time to paint, and “the more I paint, the more I want to paint,” she says. She rents space in an artist’s studio in Maynard where “I can step away from my mom/home life and shut all those distractions off.” A few years ago Heavey won first prize in an All Cape Show at Chatham’s Creative Arts Center. One day she wandered up the street and into the Munson Gallery. She handed one of the employees her card. A few days later the gallery requested to see more of her work. She now credits gallery owner Sally Munson with giving her a start as a professional artist. “I feel like Sally took a chance on me, because I was so green,” Heavey says. The Munson Gallery, which is now an on-line gallery, features 14 of her works, including four diptychs. Munson also displays Heavey’s work in venues around Chatham. You can see Heavey’s paintings at Pisces Restaurant and Bar and The Bistro on Main, Mark August home décor, and the oldCape Sotheby’s International Realty’s Chatham office. The Munson Gallery sponsored Heavey’s shark for Sharks in the Park. The opening bid is $250 and the online auction will end Aug. 14.
Heavey recently sold a large canvas called “Big Blue” that hung on the wall of Pisces Restaurant. This canvas, measuring 48 by 60 inches, illustrates Heavey’s working method.
Heavey paints multiple canvases simultaneously. While she may begin consulting a photograph she took at the beach, she may not stick to that photograph. Often, after she has mixed and painted with her color, she has some left over. Being a “frugal” person, her inclination is to usethe paint until it is gone, but she has found she can ruin a canvas that way.
“Working on a lot of water/sky paintings, I would put the excess on this canvas [“Big Blue”] and it started coming together,” she says. She believes the success of “Big Blue” came partly because she was not under pressure when she painted it. “My goal is to stay loose and fresh.”
The horizon is high in “Big Blue,” in the top eighth of the canvas. In subtle blues, greens and whites Heavey depicts sunlight glistening on shimmering water. Summer people nostalgic for Chatham’s seascapes during the long, gray winter months would do well to hang a Heavey on their wall. But “I don’t want anyone to buy my art unless they love it,” Heavey says. “It has to speak to you.”
Heavey says that after all these years, Chatham feels more like home to her than any other place.
“Chatham has been the best thing that happened to my art — it’s the best place to sell it,” Heavey says. It has also proven a supportive community in other ways.
Three years ago, Whitney and Frank elected to chronicle on Facebook Whitney’s battle against cancer. She was diagnosed on June 26, 2012, the day after the family arrived in Chatham for the summer. She went to a local medical center thinking she had an allergy that took her breath away; by the end of the day she was in an ambulance heading to Boston for cancer treatments.
Despite the grim news, “it was a happy time,” Heavey recalls. “It gave us time to be here and on the Cape in the summer. It was a very positive place to be.” She is now free of cancer.
While Heavey inspired all who followed her story, the Facebook community “buoyed us — the love and support we got,” Heavey says. “It carried us along.”
For more information on Heavey’s paintings visit www. whitneyheavey.com.
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