Heather Sheehan

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Heather Sheehan
Self-portrait 2016, With an Ear to the Past (black and white photography)
Born (1961-12-09) December 9, 1961 (age 61)
Mount Vernon, New York, United States
Known forInstallation, Performance, Black and White Photography, Video art, Sculpture
MovementPerformance art Video art
SpouseIvo Ringe

Heather Sheehan (born December 9, 1961) is an American artist who lives and works in Cologne, Germany. In her work, she combines elements of sculpture, installation, performance, video art and black and white photography. Her work focuses on the development and presentation of individual mythologies.

Life and work[edit]

Sheehan studied at the Parsons School of Design and the New School of Social Research in New York.[1] Until 1994, she lived and worked in New York City, after which she emigrated to Cologne.

The term Individual Mythology, originally coined by Harald Szeemann on the occasion of the documenta 5, denotes a mode in which artists create works from their subjective inner perception as these relate, in their mythological qualities, to recurring events in human life, such as birth, death, etc. It follows that these art installations have a puzzling effect on the viewer. The ambiguity of the presented impulses invites reflection by, and resonance within, the viewers themselves. Sheehan's main interest lies in the narrative interweaving of complex interrelationships. Through her use of varied media, she achieves a multi-dimensional world of experience in which everything relates to the given locations and her studies of them.

For the exhibition alighting (2015), for example, Sheehan produced a video entitled alighting on the river, which mirrors the two main themes in the history of the city of Augsburg, namely the textile manufacturing and the river Lech, which flows through Augsburg. "A woman in a plain dress walks barefoot, each step slow and deliberate, along a river bank. She wears a white kerchief and puts down under a willow, the coarse linen sack and black stone which she carried in her arms like a child or her own soul. Then, she turns her back to the viewer of the black-and-white video and steps into the water which soon reaches her thighs. Cut. The next scene shows nothing but water, the rushing river. The End." (in German: Eine Frau in einem schlichten Kleid geht barfuß, jeder Schritt langsam und tastend, an einem Flussufer entlang. Sie trägt ein weißes Kopftuch und legt unter einer Weide den Sack aus grobem Leinen und den schwarzen Stein ab, den sie wie ein Kind oder ihre Seele in den Armen trug. Dann dreht sie dem Betrachter des in Schwarz-Weiß gedrehten Videos den Rücken zu und schreitet ins Wasser, das ihr bald bis zu den Oberschenkeln reicht. Schnitt. Die nächste Einstellung zeigt nichts als Wasser, den dahinströmenden Fluss. Ende.)[2]

The exhibition was opened by a performance in which Sheehan – encased in a hessian sack – crawls into the room to gradually free herself from this cover. The main part of the exhibition was conceived around self-staged, photographic, self-portrait in black and white photography, in which she deals physically with themes such as birth, stillbirth, loss, healing and transformation.

For the exhibition Soulfood (2003) at the Fuhrwerkswaage in Cologne, she installed the ingredients for 2000 kg of rice pudding in triangular formation: two open cubes together with one hanging sack; ingredients not only for a comfort food for children and adults, but essential to basic nutrition of large portions of the world's population: "[...] she combines the purism of the empty, utilitarian space with the modern concept of minimalism to create the aura of a still life of motherly care." (in German: [...] sie verbindet den Purismus des ausgeräumten Nutzraumes mit dem Minimalismus moderner Positionen zur Aura eines Stillebens mütterlicher Fürsorge.)[3]

For Visitors and other Beings (2011) in Siegburg, Germany, Sheehan created beings - in varying sizes, from giants over two meters high, to tiny forms of existence which one instinctively wants to protect. Although these creatures are made of textiles and seem like cuddly animals, on closer inspection they emerge rather as creepy and disturbingly alien. This impression is reinforced by the accompanying photographs: "For this the artist took to the razor, partly removed the plush from the resin faces and partly formed it into hairstyles and eyebrows. Greatly enlarged, these panels are suggestive in their own way: The human figure seems to emerge from the plush toy. The observer becomes witness to a moulting process." (in German: Hierfür hat die Künstlerin zum Rasierer gegriffen und den Plüschstoff auf den Kunstharzgesichtern teilweise entfernt, teilweise zu Frisur und Augenbrauen geformt. In starker Vergrößerung wirken diese Tafeln auf ihre Weise suggestiv: Die menschliche Gestalt scheint aus der Plüschpuppe hervorzubrechen. Der Betrachter wird zum Zeugen eines Häutungsprozessses.)[4]

For Under the Skin (2001), Sheehan conceived a kind of "breeding station" for the Lehmbruck Museum, in which entities, mutually isolated in transparent plastic, were nourished by tubes and investigated for apparently scientific purposes. They appeared soft and slimy, not entirely finished, or still in the process of maturing. Additionally, she created a video entitled Single Opening, in which she appeared as Professor Dr. Nurse and explained that the creatures are the result of the recreation of a monotreme, which she calls Maboutae. It possesses one great economic advantage: it has only one body opening and produces a special milk. "She sarcastically caricatures them as an absurd research focus and our amateurish ideas about the possibility of genetic engineering and its economic advantages." (in German: Sarkastisch karikiert sie damit abseitige Forschungsschwerpunkte und unsere laienhaften Vorstellungen von den Möglichkeit der Gentechnik und deren ökonomischen Vorteilen.)[5]

Like a kind of human seismograph, Sheehan senses energies of the rooms in which she works and exhibits. Based on them, she develops her installations and performances: "There is a place of fertile tension between desire and consciousness, between looking out at the world and looking back in to the self. I go to this place to gather and form images, objects, actions and words. I meld with a material, until the physical experience sparks my practice. The actions I take are guided by this charge. In a state of heightened awareness, I sense the poignancy of a presence wanting to be manifested in my hands, asking to be born and shared." (in German: Es gibt einen Ort der fruchtbaren Spannung zwischen Wunsch und Bewusstsein, zwischen dem Blick auf die Welt und Retrospektive in das Selbst. Ich gehe an diesen Ort, um Bilder, Gegenstände, Handlungen nd Worte zu sammeln und zu bilden. Ich verschmelze mit dem Material, bis das physische Erleben meine Praxis anregt. Die Handlungen, die ich durchführe, sind davon bestimmt. In einem Stadium erhöhter Aufmerksamkeit fühle ich die Dringlichkeit einer Anwesenheit, die durch meine Hände manifestiert werden möchte, und darum bittet, geboren und vermittelt/geteilt zu werden.)[6]


Videography (selection)[edit]

  • 1995: Performance: On Pink, 18′ 02″
  • 1999: Single Opening,[11] 08′ 15″
  • 2003: Performance: Each&Every, 04′ 21″
  • 2015: Performance: Alighting on the River,[12] 14′ 32″
  • 2015: Performance: Waterline/Receding,[13] 05′ 11″
  • 2018: Performance: I shot myself in Augsburg,[14] 01′ 07″
  • 2019: Burlap Poem video (2012–2019),[15] 11′ 57″
  • 2021: Hers is a Story,[16] 04′ 06″


Solo exhibitions (selection)[edit]

  • 1995 On Pink[19] (Performance), Hering Raum Bonn, Germany
  • 1997: Universal Mother, Galerie Barbara Cramer, Bonn, Germany
  • 1997: Made for Arolsen (Installation), Museum Schloss Arolsen, Germany
  • 2000: Father, Pavillon Schloss Molsberg, Westerwald, Germany
  • 2000: Single Opening, (Videoperformance),[20][21] Arthothek Cologne, Germany
  • 2003: Soulfood, Kunstraum Fuhrwerkswaage, Cologne, Germany
  • 2005: Each and Every (Videoperformance), Trinity Church Cologne, Germany
  • 2007: Nike & Co.,[22][23] Art Galerie Scheel, Morsum, Sylt, Germany
  • 2009: Heather Sheehan - Beings, Neue Galerie Landshut, Landshut, Germany
  • 2011: Visitors and other Beings, Stadtmuseum Siegburg, Siegburg, Germany
  • 2012: Visitors, the Tall and the Small,[24] Kunstverein Oerlinghausen, Oerlinghausen, Germany
  • 2014: (W)hole,[25] Selected Art Models, Cologne, Germany
  • 2015: Barking the Willow, (Exhibition and Performance),[26] Neue Galerie Landshut, Landshut, Germany
  • 2015: Alighting, (Exhibition, Video and Performance),[27][28] Kunstverein Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
  • 2017: Institutional,[29] Paul-Clemen-Museum of the University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2018: I Shot Myself in Augsburg, (Exhibition and Performance),[30] Claudia Weil Galerie, Friedberg, Germany
  • 2019: A weighing/Eine Wägung (Exhibition and Performance),[31] Susanne Neuerburg Galerie, Hennef, Germany
  • 2021: Sharpless, Margaret,[32] Milton Art Bank (MAB), Milton, Pennsylvania, United States

Group exhibitions (selection)[edit]


  1. ^ Unter der Haut (Katalog) (in German). Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum. 2001. p. 133.
  2. ^ "Mit Performance, Installation, Fotografie und Zeichnung gestaltet die amerikanische Bildhauerin Heather Sheehan die Ausstellung 'alighting' im Kunstverein Augsburg". a3kultur.de (in German). 19 August 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  3. ^ Kunstraum Fuhrwerkswaage, ed. (2003), Soulfood (in German), Köln, ISBN 978-3930636518{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ Röhrig, Jürgen (6 April 2011). "Ausstellung - Schön wie ein alter Elefant". Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (in German). Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  5. ^ Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, ed. (2001), Unter der Haut. Transformationen des Biologischen in der zeitgenössischen Kunst (in German), Duisburg, p. 54, ISBN 978-3-7757-9071-0{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ Sheehan, Heather. "Artist Statement". heathersheehan.com (in German). Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Heather Sheehan". www.ecosign.de. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  8. ^ "Heather Sheehan". artfacts.net. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  9. ^ "Heather Sheehan". MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow). Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Ausstellungsarchiv – 2010 bis 2019". Stadtmuseum Siegburg. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  11. ^ "Heather Sheehan: Single Opening". vimeo.de. 2014-11-21. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  12. ^ "Heather Sheehan: Alighting". vimeo.com. 2015-08-15. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  13. ^ "Heather Sheehan: Waterline/Receding". vimeo.com. 2015-09-14. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  14. ^ "Heather Sheehan: I shot myself in Augsburg". vimeo.com. 2018-11-28. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  15. ^ "Heather Sheehan: Burlap Poem video (2012–2019)". vimeo.com. 2019-08-26. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  16. ^ "Hers is a Story". youtube.com. 2021-09-17. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  17. ^ "Heather Sheehan". Macdowell.org. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  18. ^ "Gastkünstler 2017" (in German). Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  19. ^ On Pink – Heather Sheehan. Hrsg: ViSophie. Video zur Ausstellung im Hering Raum Bonn, 1995
  20. ^ Honnef, Klaus (30 August 2000). "Heather Sheehan –Single Opening – Videoprojektion". museenkoeln.de (in German). Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  21. ^ Single Opening – Heather Sheehan. Hrsg: ViSophie. Video zur Ausstellung in der Artothek Köln, 2000
  22. ^ Trübenbach, Ursula (2006). "Heather Sheehan". artopening.de (in German). Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  23. ^ Merten, Jola. "Nike 2007". artopening.de (in German). Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  24. ^ Prignitz, Karin (4 September 2012). "Fremde Freunde - Plastiken von Heather Sheehan irritieren, verunsichern und machen neugierig". Neue Westfälische Online (in German). Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  25. ^ Rmw (August 2014). "Kölner Stippvisite SAM – One Objekt Show". Rheinische-Art.de (in German). Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  26. ^ Sheehan, Heather (5 February 2017). "sack - rope - stone: In muddier years" (in German). Neue Galerie Landshut. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Heather Sheehan - alighting". Webseite des Kunstvereins Augsburg (in German). 9 November 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  28. ^ Schreiner, Michael (22 July 2015). "Abtauchen im Zeichenfluss. Die amerikanische Künstlerin Heather Sheehan zeigt im Kunstverein ihre intimen Szenerien und Rollenspiele. Eine 25 Meter lange Wandzeichnung entstand in der Ausstellung". Augsburger Allgemeine Online (in German). Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  29. ^ "Heather Sheehan: Institutional". khi.uni-bonn.de. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
  30. ^ Judith Roderfeld (2018-11-23). "Ausstellung: Heather Sheehan macht mehr als nur Selfies" [Exhibition: Heather Sheehan takes more than justy selfies]. augsburger-allgemeine.de. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  31. ^ "Heather Sheehan: A weighing/ Eine Wägung". www.susanneneuerburg.de. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  32. ^ "Heather Sheehan: Sharpless, Margaret". miltonartbank.com. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  33. ^ Bode, Ursula (19 December 1993). "Auf der Suche nach dem verlassenen Schuh: eine Ausstellung im Rheinischen Landesmuseum: Reichlich Bein und Pömps". Zeit Online (in German). Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  34. ^ "Heather Sheehan - Ward Shelley - Zwei Amerikaner in Aschaffenburg". kunst-und-kultur.de (in German). Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  35. ^ "Ausstellungs-Archiv 2014 – 2006: Diagnose [Kunst]. Die Medizin im Spiegel der zeitgenössischen Kunst. Kunst, Künstler und Sammler im Spiegel Medizinischer Fragestellungen" [Exhibition archive 2014 – 2006: Diagnosis Art, Medicine in the mirror of contemporary art. Art, Artists and Collectors in the Mirror of Medical Issues]. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  36. ^ "Restructured" (in German). Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange. 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  37. ^ "5. Biennale Internationale d'art non objectif". isere.fr. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  38. ^ "Karla Black, Ivo Ringe, Kiki Smith und andere – Schönheit !?" [Karla Black, Ivo Ringe, Kiki Smith and others - beauty !?]. galerie-clement.de. Retrieved 2022-02-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • Klaus Honnef; Brigitte Schlüter; Barbara Kückels, eds. (1994), Die verlassenen Schuhe. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Rheinischen Landesmuseum Bonn vom 5. November 1993 bis 30. Januar 1994 (in German), Berlin: Edition Braus, ISBN 978-3894660833
  • Andrea El Danasouri (1997-01-01), Heather Sheehan - Made for Arolsen. Katalog zur Ausstellung (in German), Bad Arolsen: Museum Stadt Arolsen, ISBN 978-3930930036
  • Johannes Bilstein; Ursula Trübenbach; Matthias Winzen, eds. (1999), Macht und Fürsorge: Das Bild der Mutter in zeitgenössischer Kunst und Wissenschaft (in German), Köln: Oktagon, ISBN 978-3896110787
  • Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, ed. (2001), Unter der Haut. Transformationen des Biologischen in der zeitgenössischen Kunst (in German), Duisburg, ISBN 978-3-7757-9071-0{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Emmanuel Walderdorff Galerie, ed. (2002), Die ersten Acht, Ausstellungen der Jahre 1998 – 2002 im Pavillon Schloss Molsberg (in German), Molsberg, ISBN 3-00-009439-3{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Susanne Acker; Dorothy Nelkin (December 2003), The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age (in German), Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, ISBN 978-0879696979
  • Burkard Leismann; Ralf Scherer, eds. (November 2006), Diagnose Kunst - Diagnosis Art. Die Medizin im Spiegel der zeitgenössischen Kunst. Contemporary (in German), Köln: Wienand, ISBN 978-3879099023
  • Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, ed. (2016), Medicine in Art (in German), Krakau: Ohne Verlagsangabe, ISBN 978-83-62435-47-0
  • Sheehan, Heather (2019). "The Life of Stuff". In Meidav, Edie; Dropkin, Emmalie (eds.). Strange Attractors: Lives Changed by Chance. University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 176–183. ISBN 978-1625344236.
  • Kunstverein Augsburg e.V., ed. (2021), Heather Sheehan: Photographic Works 2012–2015, Augsburg, ISBN 978-3-00067231-6{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Heather Sheehan: Sharpless Margaret. The Ledger of. Milton: Milton Art Bank. 2021.

External links[edit]