Charles Heppner was born and raised in Chicago to a large Catholic family, number 6 of 9, where individualism was allowed unfettered. He received a degree in Math, has raced bicycles in France, been a floor trader for an investment group, and is a parent to three children.
He now lives in Austin, TX with a robust studio practice. He is currently working with Davis Gallery (Austin, TX) and Trager Contemporary (Charleston, SC) with upcoming shows at both venues. He will also be showing at Atelier 1205 in Austin.
As a multi-disciplined artist, his themes fall into two major ideas. One concerns the spiritual connection to the experiential response to beauty, especially in nature. This is expressed in his bodies of work, Hortus Noster in Urbe (large floral photographic prints), Prayer Rugs (arboreal composite photographs) and Personal Aesthetic Journey (composite images consisting of watercolors and photographs).
The other idea concerns the exploration of the individual’s role in the community, specifically how we communicate, interact and question our origin. This is explored in the bodies of work Sanctum Boxes (mixed media box constructions), Heart Strings (oil paintings) and Sacred Fabric (large photographs of carefully arranged (‘drawn’) cheesecloth).
How did the arts find you?
I have always been making art, but often times vis-à-vis math. As an adolescent I would make graphs of equations and adjust the equation to create a line that appealed to me visually. In fact, in my senior year of high school I was in both advanced math and the advanced studio art class. However, in university, I chose to pursue a degree in mathematics. I had a long career in Finance which allowed me to pursue my art with a steady paycheck. Later, I made the leap to pursue my art career in earnest.
Who has influenced your career?
For my creative influence, the six most influential artists are: Lee Bontecou, Joseph Cornell, Dawoud Bey, Saul Leiter, Agnes Martin and the couple Matthew Collings and Emma Biggs.
For the career influence there are many people, but I would have to say: Paul Klein, Fr. James Vorwoldt SJ, Ollie Dantzler, George Sotos, and the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. All have directly encouraged, pushed, and otherwise supported my pursuit of my art.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I have set up my practice with routines to use as a basis for having “good creative hygiene,” as described by the composer Virgil Thomson. For example, I never leave the house without my camera, I have a daily watercolor painting exercise which I call watercolor contact sheets, and lately I have been keeping a journal specifically for ideas. If I am having a blank moment, I can immerse myself in any of these and trust something will come of it.
How do you define success?
Having the time and freedom to make what I want. Though I fully love to share and show my work, the truth is, I make it for myself. I feel successful each time I make work that pleases me. I feel elated when others connect with my work.
What do you hope your work communicates?
I hope that the joy of beauty and being grateful for the gift of life which are two major subjects driving my work comes across as viewers explore my bodies of work.
What has been an important lesson learned during your career?
Be ready to hear very unexpected things said about your work. Regardless of how clear or opaque you may think your work to be, there will be someone at sometime who will say something which will challenge all of that.
What advice might you give to your younger self?
Be confident in yourself. If there is a question, ever, do not wait to look up the answer. Do not fear your own ignorance, as there is no way anyone can know everything, but do not ever stop learning. Read. Read. Read. And always introduce yourself.