By Jamie Zimchek, Editor
Emerging like some sylvan sylph from a swirl of leaves, the face of a woman emerges, her gaze falling enigmatically across 6th Street and Harrison Avenue. A colorful composition of green and purple against a striking yellow backdrop, this woman is a large-scale version of the work for which artist Heather Clements is so well known. It’s also the new welcome mural on the Ocean Oriental Market building in downtown Panama City, created as part of the Bay Arts Alliance mural program.
In fact this is one of several new murals popping up on walls around Panama City – but the first outdoor mural for Clements, though it’s so well-executed (textured wall and all) that you’d never know it. This is not to suggest in any way that Clements is new to the art world (or doesn’t know exactly what she’s doing). Her pedigree includes a degree in painting from one of the oldest art colleges in the country, Maryland Institute College of Art, and many more years as a practicing artist, art instructor, and gallery owner. Before that, as a child, she says art was in her blood. “I always wanted to be an artist, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be one.”
Though clearly art was her path, It was chance that brought her here, away from her roots in northern Virginia. “I moved down after graduation, almost on a lark,” Clements explains. She had a friend relocating to this area and figured picking up and moving to the beach couldn’t be a bad way to kick off the next chapter. Ultimately, she ended up buying the gallery where she had her first solo show, Gallery Above, and then met her husband. She’s been calling Panama City home ever since, undeterred even after her home was taken out by Hurricane Michael (it’s still in the process of being rebuilt).
Over the years, her art has shifted and developed. “The art that I used to make was very much metaphorically autobiographical,” she explains. “But then I reached a point where I didn’t need my art to do that anymore, I didn’t need my art to learn about myself… my art was very much my therapy and I didn’t need that anymore.” Now her work is this sublime union of female faces and forms with natural elements: women’s mouths or eyes morph seamlessly into blooming florals, or, as is the case with her latest mural, a body of leaves. Clements explains that her love for nature has sparked this shift toward an in-depth exploration of the relationship between humans and their natural environment. As she puts it, “We’re more separate now from nature than we used to be – it’s this deep connection that we used to have with our surroundings, and I think cutting off that connection has left us feeling more isolated and more empty. I really think that connection with nature really answers some things.” Her works, exquisite in graphite and watercolor, convey this emotion with delicacy and grace.
When the pandemic hit, she began posting live sketch-booking sessions; as the months passed, she posted less regularly, but there are other ways to see Clements at work, including (Zoom) live art classes, semi-private art classes, or her pre-recorded art classes, all available online. Clements enjoys a personal connection with collectors, and they can also reach her online.
Find her at www.heatherclementsart.com, on Instagram at @HeatherClementsArt or on Facebook at Heather Clements Art.