Heather Wagner was born in Athens, Georgia, but Augusta has been her home for most of her adult life. Wagner is the North Augusta Artists Guild's Artist of the Month for February. Her earliest memory of making art was when she was 7. She did an acrylic painting of some tropical birds using a photo from her Ranger Rick magazine, which she describes as a children’s version of National Geographic. She remembers that her family was preparing to move to a new city then and the discovery of the joy of painting was helpful to her during the transition.
Heather’s parents were very supportive of her artistic interests and they provided her with many lessons with local artists. She enjoyed learning to use different mediums including pastels and oil paints. She took watercolor classes taught by well-known regional artist Lucy Weigle. Heather has fond memories of all of her art teachers starting with Evans Middle School and then through high school and college. She says that she has been influenced by each one and has learned many valuable lessons from them as she developed as an artist. She graduated from the renowned Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Her major areas of study included painting and fiber arts. Through her art education, she acquired a vast appreciation for many different styles and many different artists.
Heather describes her artwork as mixed media. She often paints with acrylic and then lacquers found objects onto her paintings to bridge the gap between the flat surface and the real world. Her style of painting often includes recognizable imagery, but she has also done a series of abstract paintings inspired by her observations of rivers. Inspiration for her paintings often comes from places she has been. She works from photos, memory and from life. She says that nature and architecture most often inspire her art. She is especially interested in the weathered textures of abandoned buildings and how their decay shows the passage of time.
Heather’s art has two main influences. She is fascinated by the ever-changing patterns of sun and shade in the shallows of rivers. Her abstract series of river paintings expresses feelings of awe at being in the middle of a river, on the rocks of the shallows, alone and surrounded by the natural world. She loves to convey the sense of mystery she feels watching as the moving water reveals then hides different views of the stones on the riverbed. The painting that has had the most influence on her work is the venerated image of the Virgin Mary enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. This painting commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in 1531. The image garners much religious devotion and fervent patriotism in Mexico. Few works of art wield this kind of power in the modern world. The painting depicts the standing figure of the Virgin Mary. This central figure is surrounded by an oblong shape called a mandorla that is filled with a sunburst of gold rays made up of straight and wavy lines. In the long tradition of religious painting, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments that transcend time and space.
Heather’s painting style uses the bold colors and the expressive lines often seen in the art of Mexico. Some of her paintings use the mandorla around a central figure that has high-energy lines radiating outward. Her painting “The Well-Pleased Dove” has foil strips adhered around the central figure that reflect the light beautifully. Gold leaf has been used since ancient times as a device to suggest the glory and the holiness of the sacred supernatural. Light itself in paintings has often been used as a symbolic reference to God’s creation of the first light. This is seen as halos of gold around the heads of holy beings or light emanating from figures in paintings. Heather has done a small painting of the head of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but instead of using a gold halo to represent light, Heather has added a modern element to the image by using actual lights. These string lights surround the head and actually light up to symbolize the glory of the sacred. She breaks away from the flat surface by cutting through the canvas to add the lights. Their radiating pattern is also reminiscent of another of her recurring motifs, the crown of thorns.
When Heather is not making art, she divides her time between being a mother to her two daughters, ages 11 and 13, and her work as a cosmetologist. When time allows, she enjoys hiking, attending air shows and visiting the beach. She enjoyed teaching art to a small class of young children at the Kroc Center. Since everything is new and exciting to small children, she always finds their enthusiasm to be charming. She is a member of the North Augusta Artists Guild and the Columbia County Artists Guild. She enjoys participating in the First Friday events and has exhibited her work at Art on Broad as well as various venues in Augusta that show Artist of the Month paintings. Her work is currently displayed at the Beveled Edge and the convent of the Order of St. Helena in North Augusta.
When asked what advice she would give to other artists, Heather said that she would tell them to use their God-given talents. She says that one of the best pieces of advice she ever received was, “When people tell you who they are … listen!” She says if we pay attention, people will always reveal their true selves in one way or another.