Boy in Flight
2010 by Julie Heffernan
P.P.O.W Gallery, NY until 5 June
Heffernan’s exhibition ‘Boy, O Boy’ is the first that shows her using male models in her paintings. The collection is as fantastical, whimsical and encapsulating as her usual compositions, but instead of the women who usually stand embellished, their dresses worlds in themselves, we have simple boys with all the embellishment surrounding. There is something restrained in this which allows these figures to possess an innocence, a sense of discovery, of entering a brave new world where surroundings are new and exciting. Indeed these environments are marriages of an imagined and changing future, with figures carrying pieces of historical treasure from the past — backpacks of paintings, books, apples, stamps, not what we might necessarily expect to take from our world to the next. For though the idea behind her paintings is to look to the new, there is an inherent intention to return to what is natural, historical and imaginatively creative; her paintings are filled with curling woodland, ornate spires of turrets, foliage and a desire to leave the current world behind. Boy in Flight embodies this as he hangs suspended, nude — a creature once more in his element — held in a canopy of trees. The branches twist and surround him, catching him in his vulnerability as he falls backward, casting shadows on milky limbs as they stretch gracefully, Botticelli-like, in style. Above him swells the wealth of what nature and humans can design, foliage dotted with fragrant apples and roses, miniatures of a lost and perfect civilisation, a precarious house of cards, and a curious scarlet curtained head. More like illustration, Heffernan’s work is intricately absorbing with its attention to detail, and story-like because of it; symbolic, her compositions unfold quietly to tell us a tale.