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The Wry Eye of Heather Gauthier

One aspect of Heather Gauthier’s work that’s so appealing is its dignified simplicity. The pensive deer in Wine Rack, for example, seems neither bothered nor especially surprised by the wine bottles and stemware balanced in his antlers. There’s a deep whimsy to the painting that balances its fine art realism as delicately as the buck himself balances his wares.

“I love the classic portraits of people, but I love the idea of personifying animals,” Gauthier explains. “Giving them certain tastes. Having them pose, like ‘here is my cake, don’t touch it.’ They don’t have hands, so how do they collect things? How would they pose with their treasures? They end up balancing their cakes or their teacups. So they’re very serious about their tasks.”

Gauthier describes the wry approach to her work this way: “I like realism, but I can’t paint reality.” The mashup of animals with home decor accessories came from her love of both subjects. “For years I did store merchandising and display,” she explains. “I worked at a lot of places that had both new furniture and antiques and I was a buyer too. I just loved it. I love china, flowers, the patterns of collected objects. When I started painting, I thought, ‘what do I want to look at? A pincushion in the shape of a pear with little calico patterns.’ So I’d paint what I wish I had. It wasn’t enough to paint just an animal. I needed more colors and a lot of texture.”

The first animal with human she painted was an albino deer with “a bunch of sewing stuff in its antlers,” she remembers, “pincushions, buttons, all that kind of stuff. All I had to do was one and I realized this is what I want to do forever.”

And Heather Gauthier’s fans are thrilled to hear it. Her first big gallery show in New Orleans nearly sold out last October, and she averages about one hundred original paintings a year. She’ll have about ten canvases going at once, all around her house, and start with a background, then add an animal, then add the animal’s prized possessions.

“It’s like a big puzzle when I paint them,” she says of her process.

 

And fortunately, those of us who appreciate Gauthier’s art don’t need to worry about her running out of ideas, even with so many canvases being created at once. Because there are so many animals and so many wares to combine. “The subject matter is unlimited,” she says. “It’s hard to imagine doing anything else.”

Shop Heather's wildly inspiring collection here.

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