Detail of cast resin figure
Detail of cast resin wing and steel nails
Detail of resin cast figure in process
Detail of cast resin figure
I express my personal connection to the social, political, and historical realities of our world through mixed media sculpture. I often use figures of women as an expressive vehicle for conveying the difficult and complex emotions I experience and their connection to the wider scope of the world. While not meant to resemble me, these sculptures are a form of self-portraiture.
The concepts in my work expand out as I find threads of connection between personal experiences and larger issues. A sculpture focused on how I am perceived by others and the fragmentary way I view myself is part of a larger exploration of the cultural and historical ideas about women, appearance, and agism. A series instigated by personal events of leaving my home in San Francisco and losing my childhood house to fire, is an exploration of loss and connection to place that expanded to encompass ideas on the mutability of memory.
My practice is time-intensive and requires many hours of physical handwork. I begin by modeling in clay. This is a process of deeply looking and 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. The long time frame of my process and hours of repetitive manual labor allow me the space to reflect on the individual elements of the sculpture as well as the overall meaning of the work.
Each material choice in my mixed media works brings a specific layer of meaning to the piece. The main figure is usually cast in resin, which I can make opaque or utilize the transparent quality to evoke absence or give meaning. The cast piece is placed in relationship to other components. The materials I am most drawn to are wood, metal, 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 history 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.
In an effort to understand myself and my relationship to the world around me, I use sculpture to bring form to the feelings, conflicts, and questions with which I am grappling. The sculptures are physical representations that examine my beliefs and choices, my relationships to others, and my perceived reality.
....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, loss, 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. 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). Working out of her studio in Alameda, CA. Mortensen has pieces in private collections in San Francisco, New York, and Honolulu.