life size portrait
Mining my experiences to make meaning from personal history and probing the connections to social, political, and historical realities, I create figurative sculpture to examine my subjective experience in relation to the constructs of our world. I have long been drawn to the human figure as a vehicle for expression and narrative, exploring themes of connection, cognitive dissonance, identity, and self-perception as they relate to my experience as a woman.
The concepts in my work expand out as I find threads of connection between personal experiences and larger issues. My current series, We Are Always At Home In Our Past, was instigated by parallel events of losing my childhood house to fire, and facing impending displacement from an increasingly gentrified San Francisco. Looking outward to the worldwide catastrophe of displaced persons, I chose to volunteer in a refugee camp to deepen my understanding of the lives of those affected. Within the themes of displacement and loss, I am also exploring the fluid and fragmentary nature of memory and connection to others and place.
I choose to express myself in the solid physicality of sculpture and tactile realness of materials to correlate to the bodily experience of emotion. My practice is time-intensive and requires many hours of physical handwork. Begining by modeling in clay, deciphering the nuances of the pose and what each tensed or relaxed muscle conveys. I create molds to cast the piece and then there can be many hours of sanding and finishing.
Each material choice in my mixed media works brings a specific layer of meaning to the piece. The main figure is often cast in resin, which I can make opaque or utilize the transparent quality to evoke absence. The cast piece is placed in relation to other components. The materials I am most drawn to are wood, metal, fibers, and concrete, which contrast the softly transparent resin finishes. I also include found materials, which add a history of their own to the work. This can be the inferred stories of use in salvaged wood, rusted hardware, and old architectural elements or as personal as the ash and burnt remnants from the fire that destroyed my family’s home.
My sculptural practice allows me to better understand the relationship between perception, personhood, and place, and to make meaning from my history and find connection to the experiences of others.
....at work in the studio
Heidi Mortensen is a mixed media sculptor living in San Francisco, California. Using representational forms of women, wings, and other natural elements, she explores themes of identity, connection, displacement, and the tension of internal conflicts, from a distinctly female perspective. Her detailed clay figures are transformed into resin through a process of mold-making and casting. They are then combined with materials including wood, metal, concrete, fiber, and found objects.
Mortensen received a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Hawaii, where she won the Outstanding Student in Sculpture award. She later pursued atelier training in figure sculpting at the Barcelona Academy of Art to deepen her understanding of the architecture of the human body and is currently pursuing an MFA in Sculpture from Alfred University, NY. Her work has been included in Artworks Northwest Biennial Exhibit at the Umpqua Valley Arts Association (Roseburg, OR), and Women Artists Making Their Mark at O'Hanlon Center for the Arts (Mill Valley, CA) and was awarded first place at Slice, A Juried Cross-Section of Regional Art by Pence Gallery (Davis CA). Mortensen has pieces in private collections in San Francisco, New York, and Honolulu.