Without Us by Sophia Heymans
Saturday, November 10th, 6-9pm
November 10 – December 29, 2018
Sophia Heymans’s solo exhibition, Without Us, confronts the history of American Landscape painting by challenging our sense of rank within the environment and narrating a post-human world. Sophia approaches painting landscapes from a non-dominant perspective, she rejects the misguided assumption that unoccupied lands exist as our personal refuge, or for our future conquest. Heymans’s large-scale oil paintings also incorporate textural objects including natural occurring materials that she collects from her neighborhood in order to maintain a physical relationship with her surroundings.
Sophia grew up on a farm in central Minnesota and participated in restoring much of the land back to native prairie. Because of those experiences she is acutely aware of how much colonial reclamation has had an adverse impact on the land. American landscape painting, along with American History, has for the most part ignored thousands of years of indigenous human history, acting as though this land was ours to tackle and overpower. Even when seemingly depicting the grandeur of the wilderness, as with the Hudson River School Painters, the work still reeks of supremacy – peering ravenously down from a high rock at the wild young lands. There were less obvious postures of dominance, too; the Impressionists, for example, painted charming and peaceful outdoor scenes to inspire and comfort during times of industrialization and war.
In order to provide a counterpoint to these depictions Heymans’s flips the roles in her paintings, daydreaming of a time and place outside of human hegemony. In this post-human America, the plants and landforms are characters, able to express themselves after hundreds of years of White (European) dominance. Their movements are those of freedom and festivity. Trees high-five each other knowing they are finally liberated from human devastation. Smoke floats like reaching arms across borders that no longer exist. Rain clouds release drops into a lake, creating towering columns between heaven and earth. The paintings are from a bird’s-eye view, or the perspective of a cloud or spirit, hovering somewhere outside of human perception and dominion.
Sophia Heymans currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has had solo exhibitions at Phipps Center, Saint John’s University and Carleton College to name a few, and a recent group exhibition at the Independent Art Book Fair in Brooklyn.