Heide Hatry

As an artist Heide Hatry is driven. As a thinker she never stops probing. As a human being she is always looking, always wondering, always asking why, and why not?

I've known Heide for a few years now. We were first in an exhibition together at DNA in Provincetown. She is the kind of artist that not only gets noticed, but demands it. This is part of the job. The other part of the job is making the thing we cannot find out there. She does that. And she won't stop. She is looking for  that dot which will connect to her own. Part longing, part closure, part unconscious need to fulfill something she will only understand when she sees it in front of her, this is something that hunts/haunts her as much as she goes after it.

Heide's work up to now has been fascinating. For some time she has come at one thought from many directions. So much so that she felt compelled to create multiple personas to satisfy her need for the freedom to pursue each one without conflict from  the others. Instead of trying to consolidate, integrate, or reconcile each of these different avenues into the work of one artist, herself, she curiously invented several different artists, with their own name, personality, and look,  who could each enjoy the drive down said avenues alone. At once Hatry has cleverly side-stepped the charge of dilettante, and two-stepped her way to Duchamp's side.

The object of her dream she calls SKIN. She finds herself in ancient company. She wants to satisfy some historic call to bring it to life; she wants to make it real. Real to herself, and the viewer. She wants to wow both with the experience of skin, the vitality of skin, the feeling of skin. And it is a feeling she is looking for. It is not about verisimilitude; it is about awe. Heide Hatry has some psychological need to make skin alive.

At times she has chosen to paint this experience in classical terms, in terms she can admire. Renaissance terms. At other times she has resorted to skipping right to skin itself. To pig skin. Using the real thing.

Never mind that her father owned a pig farm in Germany that she escaped as a young girl to spare her soul the sound of their slaughter. Never mind that her father killed himself after losing the farm, and did so in a bizarre manner. Never mind that she carries the experience of every German after 1945. Is it any wonder that Heide Hatry is a complicated artist. Is is any wonder that it would take more than one artist to carry her load. Recently she did a performance in Germany where she butchered a pig in a white dress and made a room of the skin so that people could get inside. Inside her skin? It was nothing less than a sensation.

Her next project is sure to be no less of one, in the best sense. She intends to throw herself into the achievement of several larger than life portraits of women, some alive, some dead. The living will be mounted on the wall and reflected in a mirror on the floor. The dead will be on the floor, and reflected in a mirror on the wall. She will continue to explore techniques using layers of wax embedded with pigment to bring the figures to life. They will confront the viewer. They will meet the viewer with their eyes, and what happens next will no doubt be up to that viewer. Like meeting your maker, it will be a diverse experience, depending entirely on what the viewer brings to the table. This is no accident. Mirrors, eyes, nakedness, SKIN! Hatry likes laying it all out there, and what are we to do with it? Squirm? Cheer? Bare our souls?

This is a passionate artist. She wants to test herself, and test us. She wants to cross lines, blur lines, draw lines. She wants to explore, and learn, and understand, and make something big happen. Hence the nakedness, and we all act like it is something from another planet. And then the sex, as if we don’t know about this. And aren’t these things our natural states? So aren’t they beautiful, and happy, and pure? What have we done?

And what we’ve done is what Hatry is up to. She holds it up, to admire, or to rub our noses in it. She is trying to have it both ways, of course. She wants to shock and then say “what?” And she knows this, and she smiles. It’s nice to have it both ways.

But of course you can’t. Which is not to say that shock is what Hatry is after. She’s not. For all her talk about skin, she wants to get under it, even more her own than ours. Beyond the paintings we get the photo-documents. They are the work of art, the art object, despite the impression that what is being documented is. No, it is the experience of the photograph. This is another one of Hatry’s worlds. She makes something happen in the way that a painter might build a still-life and then paint it.  She makes something that becomes real through that making and then becomes even more real by photographing it. Yes, the photograph is just SKIN. It is all that is left. What we get is part crime scene photo-document and part Nature Morte. Her life is the scene of the crime; her life is the grand still-life being reconstructed piece by piece.

Hatry makes worlds within worlds, and this, again, is what she is up to. We can’t keep up with her. That is part of her “what?” Coyly she really means it. What did you get? You sat at my table and what did you eat? Pork? Pig is the least of it. Pig and the like are nothing more than clues. In her work we get the pieces of her life. Pieces that SHE is piecing together. So much so that only after she has done something can she say, oh, yes, there you are. It’s messy. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but there you have it. Hatry does not shy away from anything, and she challenges us to do the same. Heide Hatry is curious about life, hers. If death is something she can’t get around, then so be it. It is not morbidity. It is all her. She is the little pig vacuum-packed in plastic. The human figures as flat and dead as the crime-scene chalk outline are who? Her? Her father? 

Heide Hatry is curious. Unflinching.  She wants to know. And she won’t quit. Can we do any less? 

Addison Parks, October 11, 2006, Lincoln, MA

"SKIN"  PIERRE MENARD GALLERY September 28 - November 20 Curated by contributing artist, Heide Hatry.
Group exhibition presenting seven artists working with the medium of skin
Artists featured: Christine Bofinger, Emilia Burgos, Paula Ebanista, Heide Hatry, Betty Hirst, Hermine Roth, Lema Scherer

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