Interview by Jorge Lara Santiago
VIMMAG: Greetings Heather, how are you? You are a ballet dancer and a professional artist and VIM's first Visionary of the Year. Throughout 2013 you have had some tremendous highs and lows in your creative efforts, but through it all you have wholeheartedly embraced your art work and persevered, and accomplished so much. Congratulations! Tell us about this past year.
HEATHER HERMANN: Greetings Jorge! I’m so humbled to be VIM's first Visionary of the Year! And thank you also for the congratulations on all my recent accomplishments. I've been working day and night and things have been a slow steady process building into big things the entire time. As for reflecting on this past year, the theme has been re-finding myself and reconnecting with the things that bring me joy and inspire me to create. The last couple of years have been filled with a lot of creative road blocks, but I can honestly say it’s exciting to now be over the hump while moving forward with reckless abandon. I've learned a lot on the personal side of things and having a new studio to work in is a major plus. I'm very happy to be doing what I love and growing more as each day passes by.
VIMMAG: Our reason for choosing you was because you have demonstrated such a tremendous diversity in your art and you possess a finesse and dedication to your craft that is very rare. What was your first significant art experience?
HEATHER HERMANN: My first art experience is quite a silly one. Technically I was only 2 years old and picked up a blue magic marker and started drawing some little birds I saw on Sesame Street! I remember it clear as day, along with the terrible paper I drew them on. That pungent smell of those markers will never leave me. However my first enlightenment in wanting to become an artist professionally for life was when I was about five years old. I was always inspired by various forms of animation but I've also been fascinated with technology, video games, cover art, fashion ads, and more since I was very young. I saw a copy of Final Fantasy I that a friend owned on Super Nintendo and nearly lost my mind seeing Yoshitaka Amano's work for the first time. I knew right then that I wanted to embrace my talent and one day be just as good as him. Despite being a professional ballerina for 99% of my life in association with London Royal Academy of Ballet, my art was always a mental escape and a way for me to tell stories. I loved designing costumes especially. I probably have at least five thousand drawings stored away in various trunks at my parent’s old house. If I wasn't in the ballet studio, you could always find me drawing.
VIMMAG: You were part of Pinup Rendezvous at Pinup Pointe for MzMina Kahn fashion event. I have to say I attended the gallery before it closed and never realized that was your artwork on display there. There is so much detail and finesse in what you create. Pinup Pointe was founded by Brent Mizel. What are your memories of it?
HEATHER HERMANN: Pinup Pointe for me was a fresh take on vintage Pinup in our developing arts district. My memories are all very sweet, of amazing pinup art on display from some of my favorite artists, of really awesome events during the summer, of the fun conversations and interesting people that would frequent the gallery, and of the art clubs that would meet for live drawing sessions…at times it seemed so exciting and hopeful, like it was going to be the next big thing and you could feel the enthusiasm and energy when you walked in. I even celebrated one of my birthdays at that gallery, it was great. It however saddens me greatly that it is no longer in business. I was one of the main people who helped Brent try to make his dream come true, and I remember spending so many hours painting those walls! Hah! Pinup Pointe was aimed at high end sales and the forward thinking. Unfortunately, much of the district did not adopt the trend fast enough to create the traffic necessary to remain profitable. Opening an art gallery is a scary and exciting thing. It takes risk and passion. I admire Mr. Mizel. He's been one of my best friends for years and without him I wouldn't be where I am today. He's always been one of my biggest supporters and owns several of my rare artworks. Every time I pass by the old location I miss the little Marilyn Monroe couch in the front window. Brent did a very amazing risky thing and I admire and respect him HIGHLY for doing what he did to try to make that place work. I know one day he's going to own a huge gallery somewhere. He loves art too much!
VIMMAG: This past year you made a promotional appearance for NYC based artist Abby Robinson at the Cosmopolitan. How did that go?
HEATHER HERMANN: The P3 studio gig I did with Ms. Robinson was quite fun. She did a photographic study on parts of the human body at extreme close-up and would pin them all over the windows. She wanted a Vegas showgirl to assist and I was the one that she picked to work with. I had a great time getting to know her and the filmographer Tony Quirk. I danced in the doorways with my giant white ostrich fan and enticed people to enter the gallery to have themselves photographed. It was quite interesting how some seemingly normal person would walk in only then to be asked if they could have their nipple or upper lip photographed! She was extremely nice and it was great to support an NYC based artist. Her mutual appreciation for Las Vegas and demanding a classic Showgirl despite the hotel initially being against the idea. I thought it was admirable that she stayed true to her love of art, not letting herself be discouraged or held back by old outdated ideas and policies. I also respect her for her ability to win people over and make the show possible.
VIMMAG: Let's talk about your artwork. I noticed a lot of research goes into your work and you are very comfortable with analog and digital media, switching seamlessly between the two in your work. You recently previewed your latest painting which is going to be featured at Velveteen Rabbit with a “Livestream” of you painting it online. What can you tell us about your secret series and what was your reason for doing it?
HEATHER HERMANN: Well I wouldn't of called it a secret series if it wasn't a secret now would I? Hee hee. But in all seriousness, it’s going to have some of my signature Deco women, abstract elements, and definitely some Rabbits, and will look great in the moodier light scheme of Velveteen Rabbit. I’m feeling like this is some of my best work and am very excited to unveil the final pieces that I am working on. Follow my Artists Facebook Page and go to the “Livestream” link and you can see it as it takes shape.
VIMMAG: You have a fascination with bunnies, Final Fantasy 14, and deco. Tell us how it all began. Where do I even start with bunnies?
HEATHER HERMANN: I think I pretty much came out of the womb loving bunnies. I've never had any other animals in my life and my rabbits have been a prime source of comfort and inspiration. I find their quiet attitudes wonderful but what people lack to understand is that rabbits are highly intelligent and very sociable creatures. My rabbits are trained and make me laugh constantly with their behavior around the house. I don’t know what I'd do without them! They are like cats, but more destructive, demanding, kissable, and remain constant in their permanent facial expression of "disapproval". As for Final Fantasy, it's my favorite video game series of all time. Period. I've got my favorites of the litter but I would definitely say Final Fantasy VIII was my biggest influence and obsession while VI, VII, IX, XI were my other favorites. I was a veteran FF XI MMORPG player and hosted one of the two thriving role-playing guilds on the Slyph Server called Dyadic Order. I have since then transferred all of that to the new MMO Final Fantasy 14. I think the art direction, music and character design is so incredibly iconic. It's one of those things that brings me such a huge amount of personal joy it's difficult to explain to others who did not experience it in the same time frame as I did. Though it is a video game, it is an absolute work of art and has played a huge part in shaping me as a person. Art Deco has always been in my life. My parents always made me watch old movies with Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Dietrich (who oddly enough I am related to). I've always been fascinated by the Golden Age of Hollywood but it's newer resurgence in the 1980's is really what caught my eye as a child. I used to watch so many sci-fi movies and more mature films for my age that had many Art Deco themes in them. It's always been permanent in my memory. One of my earliest memories was being three years old and brought to an Ice Cream Parlor/Buffet that was up on Rainbow BVLD back in 1990. I remember seeing in the teal vinyl booth and smelling that sweet parlor smell of fresh vanilla ice cream mixed with salad bar. The floors were black and white checkerboard surrounded by chromed out deco tables, various tacky potted plants, and peach colored walls. I sat in that high chair and ate that ice cream for the first time and it was the best thing ever. I have so many memories of the early Meadows Mall and all the Art Deco decor it used to have before they renovated it in 1994. When I was in my teens I wrote a lot of papers on Art Deco master Erte' and became obsessed with his designs; especially those centered around showgirls. It's hard to explain, but Art Deco has been hard wired into me as long as I can physically remember. It's a huge part of me and I am proud to be one of the few artists living today who specialize in it as a genre and lifestyle.
VIMMAG: You are launching a new website soon. What can we expect from it?
HEATHER HERMANN: My new website is going to be interactive and heavily inspired from cinema. I've been working with my creative partner Daniel Hripkov in producing it and it's taken up a lot of our time to complete it. It will be a physical/technological translation of my thoughts, art, and branding image. I’m not at liberty to say much more, but I can say no one else will have one like it. It's completely unique in design that's for sure.
VIMMAG: Your photo shoots for VIM was with Daniel Hripkov and Devon Ford. How was it?
HEATHER HERMANN: I've known Devon since kindergarten and I felt it proper to sign him up for the job. He works primarily in professional filmography but shares my dystopian art vision and has a good understanding of the feeling of my work. As for Daniel Hripkov, he regularly helps with my creative ventures. I find his logical input and the way he handles the editing process invaluable. I applaud both of them on their hard work and I am extremely thankful for having such wonderful people working alongside me to help represent my vision properly.
VIMMAG: During our prior meetings you mentioned that you approach your art with a mindset that is from a different time period. How did this approach influence your life to this point and what new passions will you pursue in the near future?
HEATHER HERMANN: My life is a never-ending story honestly. How can I chronicle such a life without writing a novel? Maybe one day I will! I'm humbled when I reflect on how many places I have traveled to, met so many special and amazing people along the way, and I’ve also had my fair share of hardships only to rise out of the flames to become better with each obstacle. My passions vary and are always changing (though Art and Dance will always be a part of who I am) and I will pursue them as they come to me. I will not know until the road guides me there. But in the meantime...I surely am excited about the adventure. One thing is for certain, my past has molded me into an artist that is not afraid of taking chances and willing to forge new ground in areas of art that others may find risky as well as teaching me that it’s okay to share my strengths, weaknesses, and passions as an artist in my work. It’s this transparency and also this romanticizing of my love of the arts that I think is what draws people to my work.
The Duchess of Deco: Heather Hermann (c) 2013 Photography by Devon Ford Photography (c) 2013 Creative Editing by Daniel Hripkov (c) 2013
Photos with Erin Marie Sullivan and Heather Hermann: The Duchess of Deco: Heather Hermann (c) 2013 Photography by Devon Ford Photography (c) 2013 Creative Editing by Daniel Hripkov (c) 2013
Modeling by Erin Marie Estes and Heather Hermann
Promotion by: The Las Vegas Showgirls (c) 2013