Judy Heiser’s career as an artist began about 20 years ago, but her artistic passion came about long before that.
Heiser has worked as a professional dancer on stages around the world. When I asked her if that had anything to do with her becoming a painter, she said, “As a professional dancer for 20 years, dancing with a passion — I learned to paint with fearless passion, expression and movement. Like choreographing on an empty stage, I embrace a blank canvas and rehearse lines, making marks, changing lines, forms, shapes.”
Heiser sees herself as an “action” painter and when her family moved to Washington, D.C., she became entranced with the area and its art galleries.
“I’m moved by subjects with interesting lighting, mood, atmosphere, earth, oceans, water, reflections, clouds, colors of the morning and evening skies and birds in flight,” she said.
All of these ingredients can be seen in her paintings on display at her studio in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. She pointed to an abstract painting called “Break of Dawn” that she says is a landscape scene in Maryland. The painting has a sense of mystery and the colors she used have been extracted from nature. Others such as “Roads to Everywhere,” “Unstructured,” and “Summer Splash” show intensity of color and substance.
Heiser’s worldview and artistic enthusiasm gives her an endless supply of subjects to paint.
“I’m inspired by the art of looking, curiosity and wonder, travel and explorations,” she said, adding that her concepts come from “abstracting nature, research, observations, interpretations of stories, postures, moments and relationships.”
In order to release these emotions to engage in a painting she says, “I paint outside as much as possible, although painting from my studio, I’m always looking out the window. My paintings are constantly changing.”
Heiser has had a multifaceted career as a dancer, has worked on the staff at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and she is a mother. She also enjoys running art workshops and she tells her students, “to keep at it as long as you are having fun. Struggle with it.”
Her students give her incentives to look at art differently. She previously taught recreational art therapy at Mount Vernon Hospital, but that work was interrupted by the pandemic. She hopes to return to doing that soon.
Heiser studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design as well as the Alexandria Art League. Her journey into art began as a youngster.
“I was always creative, drawing and painting and I thought I would do that in college but it wasn’t taking off for me the way I wanted it to,” she said. So she began dancing instead.
Her devotion to painting has not taken her completely away from performing arts. She is involved with the Alexandria Community Theater, serving as a director, choreographer, set designer, and more.
“Performing arts and visual arts have my heart, and I love to teach and share whenever I can,” she said.
Heiser’s work has been accepted at the Nepenthe Gallery, a new space in Alexandria, and she has been invited as a guest speaker there as well. Her paintings have also been exhibited as part of ArtSpire VA, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships for youths interested in fine and performing arts.
by Joe Motheral