Charles Heppner lives two blocks from Patterson Park, and created “Efficiency” using photographs of the burr oaks at the park. He is participating in the East Austin Studio Tour, which is happening this weekend, Nov. 19-20. Visit him at studio #82 at 3903 Cherrywood Rd. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. By Jennifer Potter-Miller.
What was your interest in working with the trees at Patterson Park?
Trees in general are a thing of beauty that need to be revered, so I work with trees that are in my everyday life. I am at Patterson Park all the time with my kids, and got to know the trees, and recognize aspects of their beauty that I wanted to highlight.
The Prayer Rugs body of work are composite photographs using trees as the basis. Each work is a tessellation of a photographic tile created from photographing trees. In this case, the Burr Oak’s living in Patterson Park. These trees have an extraordinary movement in their limbs that is reminiscent of something called a Peano Space Filling Curve.
It’s not the same by any means, but I like how the burr oak spiral into the sky and this triggered that connection for me. As the tree limbs grow, they make almost right angles as they split off and fill in the sky.
The title of this work is Efficiency. You know, every tree has its own way of maximizing its ability to gain sunlight given its environment, depending on its leaves, where it is in the canopy of trees, etc. This one has a great overt way of showing how effectively it’s doing it because it’s breaking out into the sky.
If you look at the piece, you can see how there are dominant lines that break it off into little sections. And if you look at the individual sections, you’ll see how they begin to be filled up. That’s because of the movement of the tree going upward and inward, as I said before. That was the effect I wanted to highlight.
In this particular case, I exaggerated the effect by layering more than one image of the burr oak. That was an effect I wanted to be really seen, and it’s seen with impunity in this piece.
Could you tell me how the “Prayer Rug” pieces are created?
They are actually photographic prints. I use a printing company in New York to print them. I send them a digital file and they use a machine that exposes color photographic paper by employing a laser. Then they are mounted sandwiched between Plexiglass and plastic substrate called Sintra to create a really clean floating look off the wall. I think it highlights to beauty of the piece onto itself. There’s no frame to mess with what’s going on. I love how it’s a photograph that’s on the wall that becomes part of and is separated from the wall at the same time.
Charles Heppner is a multidisciplinary artist living in Austin. He was born in Chicago into a large Catholic family where individualism was allowed unfettered. He has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He has worked in finance and is a devoted parent of three children. His current body of work concerns spirituality and the human relationship to nature. Charles has shown his work in numerous galleries both in Chicago and New York. His work is in many private and corporate collections throughout the United States.
“Efficiency,” by Charles Heppner