Artist Profile: Amy Heller
“It’s everything,” Amy Heller says about Cape Cod. “I think in my daily existence, I need to be surrounded by water—I just love the light, the color, and the smell.”
Heller, an experimental artist living in Orleans, has been creating art on the Cape since childhood. At five years old, Heller met Peter Busa, an abstract artist, while her family summered in Provincetown. “He said, ‘You are going to be an artist,’” Heller recalls.
Her early start in her pursuit of creating art led her to Hampshire College to study fine art. In her twenties she worked in several prestigious galleries and museums and earned her Master of Arts in photography from George Washington University. Heller’s work has been showcased for almost 40 years, as it has been featured in the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and the Cape Cod Museum of Art, among others. Heller conveys that her work constantly evolves as her experiences and surroundings influence her inspirations.
“I took a class in photo history and the studies of Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey, a French photographer; they were motion studies from the late 1800s. Muybridge, his stuff was a little weird, frankly. But you know, it was interesting. And I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have got to do that.’ I dropped everything, I was in the class, and I ran upstairs to my dark room,” Heller says.
Heller also recalls an interest in motion as a child and works to incorporate movement into her artistic endeavors. “I’ve loved motion from when I was a little girl. You couldn’t stop me; the Beatles were on TV, and I would jump off the raised hearth fireplace, dancing around, always dancing. I love dancers, love movement and gesture,” she says.
Heller began experimenting with film and motion photography after seeing Muybridge and Marey’s works. By exposing film in a long strand, rather than separating through frames, Heller can create a panoramic image of models in motion, mimicking the art of her inspirations. Along her artistic journey, Heller became friends with Gail Browne, a fellow Cape Cod artist. In 2020, the pair created a book, Lost and Found: Time, Tide, and Treasures, featuring beachcombing collections by six local artists. “I was just in awe. It took me back to my childhood beachcombing with my mother. And then I was able to indulge in my photography medium as I started photographing the artists’ collections,” Heller says about her time working on the book.
More recently, Heller experiments with cyanotypes. Invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842, cyanotypes use photosensitive materials to create enigmatic negative-space works. While cyanotypes are not new, Heller has introduced a modern flair to her work. “I found these light boxes, and I had them modified. I was making some cyanotype on silk, very thin, silk. Then I started collaging them because I also love collage, mixed media. I started sandwiching negatives and positives in these LED light boxes, and the light revealed things that you couldn’t necessarily see with the naked eye,” Heller says.
Cyanotypes can be incorporated with various materials and shapes, making each unique. “I use flowers; I use vegetables. I have images of things from the sea—I love seaweed. I simply love it. I don’t like walking in it, but visually I love it, and I love skate egg cases. You’ll see a lot of them in my artwork,” Heller says.
“A lot of the ideas that I have are beyond my capabilities. I have to learn things. I’m constantly experimenting and trying things,” Heller explains as she recalls the forums and groups she connected with during the pandemic. Heller is pursuing sales of her artwork through her new website and continues to create rapidly. She says her mind is constantly active and considering new approaches to creativity, and her art represents that continued consciousness.
“Everything around me is what interests me,” Heller says.
Amy Heller’s work and inspiration can be experienced at amyheller.com.