Heidi Peelen is having a moment of artistic expression that’s like an explosion.
Her visions are spreading across the city like the splatter of a Jackson Pollock, her voice becoming undeniable — and unmissable — to anyone paying close attention to the world of art and culture in Hampton Roads.
When I visited her at her space in Glass Wheel Studio this week parts and pieces of her multitude of works in progress were strewn across the room like creative confetti: a painting in progress here, frames there, lesson plans on the desk, and inspiration everywhere.
“It has absolutely challenged me,” Peelen, a 28-year-old Portsmouth native, said of her time at the local artist incubator Glass Wheel. “It stretched me in a million different ways that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t here.”
Stretch she has.
Think you’re creatively busy? Peelen recently finished a mural at Fruitive in Ghent, is producing a portrait a day for the year for an online project, has work in the current gallery show at Glass Wheel, has a two-person show opening at Norfolk State, and is starring in a one-woman show at The Push Comedy Theater this Friday — all the while working on lesson plans for six different courses at Regent University.
“Through the use of mix media, comedy sketches, and at times Andy Kaufman-esque approaches, this show will be completely different,” said The Push’s head honcho, Brad McMurran. “Different visually, comically, and structurally from what we are accustomed.”
The same sense of being different can be said of Peelen, whose desire to create feels insatiable at the moment.
The Norfolk State show is called “Profound Idiosyncrasy,” where she will have work alongside John Tobin. Peelen’s work is almost exclusively of women, many of them figures her age, with sometimes striking resemblances to the artist herself. The art explores women captured in the midst of attempting to not be overwhelmed by the mundane tasks of life, like mixing punch or doing laundry.
“I don’t want any part of the scenes I’m trying to portray,” said Peelen, who has no children herself, but speaks reverently of mothers, including her own.
“It’s an homage to her — whoever she is in that image,” Peelen said.
Cheryl White, director of Glass Wheel Studio, said she has seen tremendous dedication and growth in Peelen during her time in residence.
“Heidi’s work is intrinsically honest,” said White. “Her depictions of women are equally humorous and heartbreaking… a critique and an homage.”
The figures in Peelen’s work stand at on the razor’s edge between acceptance and complete and utter annoyance.
“It’s that constant duality that exists,” she said. “As much as they want to escape the world they built they want to live in the world they built.”
People who attend her show at The Push, “Low Key Starved,” might have brief moments of wanting to escape as well. Part of her goal, she says, is to make the audience squirm in an honest and self-reflective way.
“I want there to be moments of uncomfortableness,” said Peelen, who attended Churchland High. “And for people to have to sit in it… or for people to get up, and for me to have to sit in the uncomfortableness of that.”
I have seen Heidi perform comedy at The Push on a number of occasions, and have watched her singing performances online. She is a true talent. It’s going to be fascinating to watch her hold the space for 90 minutes.
“I just want the audience to have an experience,” she said, an outcome just about guaranteed whenever in the presence of one of the region’s up-and-coming creative dynamos.
For more on Heidi, check out her website.
“Low Key Starved” is this Friday at 8pm. For more on that, click here.