Heidi Parkes: Artist in Residence in Lake Park
June 9, 2021 | Topics: featured artist
The Natural Realm presents Heidi Parkes who is among 17 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy, Tall Pines Conservancy, and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. The mission of ARTservancy is to promote the visionary work of both the artists and conservationists. Each artist has selected a preserve to spend time in and to engage with.
Artist Statement by Heidi Parkes
I have never really been a fan of ‘being outdoors.’ I suppose that’s part of my attraction to artmaking. In my childhood my mom had an “art table” set up in the kitchen, next to our guinea pigs and the bay window overlooking our garden. I would spend hours inside, drawing and painting at that table. Looking out the window, I recall the bleeding hearts most vividly, along with the marigolds that I helped plant every year, and the rhubarb with its poisonous leaves and the delicious pies and jams that I helped make. The cottonwoods beyond the garden distributed a fluffy summer coating of ‘snow,’ and I learned to love depicting leaves as hearts because of them, the birch tree in the front of our home, and the heart-leafed vine-y house plant beside me. The safety of the art table, with my mom’s four-foot Victory Garden cross stitch above it, kept me away from bug bites, sweat, and sunburn. Winter, therefore, was my favorite season. Once bundled up and cozy, I would walk with my younger brother and our sleds to Seager Park, a tiny forest preserve near my home in Naperville, IL. Rosy cheeked and tiered, we would return home to hot chocolate with marshmallows, and a quilt to snuggle in by the fireplace.
I’ve been a quilter since 2013, and it’s been my profession since 2014. Before that, I was a high school art teacher for 9 years, and I’m a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve had great interests in herbalism, kitchen medicine, aromatherapy, cooking, Ayurveda, and my house plants and garden plants are survivors. In 2020, I felt a longing to incorporate more plants into my quilts. Something about the pandemic was causing plants to show up much more prominently in my work, like the chives, roses, and my heart-leafed houseplant in Meuse, Pandemic, Invisible, Sweetheart.
Before applying for the ARTservancy residency at Lake Park, I went on many walks there—alone and with friends. I wasn’t sure if I could commit to visiting the outdoors so regularly. Lake Park felt particularly accessible though, because I have so frequently driven to Bradford Beach to walk along the waterfront, especially offseason. I was also enchanted by the sociability of the park. The opportunity to see people, off of Zoom and without the stress of the grocery store was appealing. A frequent theme in my art is longing, and that time of wondering and longing about the application process has felt important in the work.
As a current resident artist, I was shocked to see bats flying overhead during a sunset walk in the park with my partner Beau. I’ve visited some of the other parks with other resident artists, and have ventured further into the slippery ice and rain than I ever dreamed I would—usually spurred on by the companionship, and natural beauty. This May, I walked from my home to the park, and found giant clouds of gnats. Those sent me home immediately. I’ve also enjoyed (from the comfort of my home) the virtual gatherings with the other ARTservancy artists, learning about their treks into areas without paths, the necessity of neon orange vests, and have so enjoyed hearing about their inspiration and creative processes.
Some works, like my recently finished and as-yet untitled piece about the residency depict a leaf that I picked up from the path in October and pressed. I embroidered and appliqued them from memory, and was then quite startled to see how different they looked when they came out of my book-press, and I traced their likeness in thread. I tracked the phases of the October Halloween blue moon, made a traditional courthouse steps block when RBG passed away, and pleated in a subtle path—perhaps one covered in snow?
I’ve been watching for the subtle impact of time spent near the water and trees. I’ve mapped my walks with my FitBit when I remember, and even taught an international Zoom workshop with The Makerie on mapping walks, with another class coming up in September. I’ve offered a lot more free content on YouTube with Hand Yoga for creative hands (I’m a certified yoga therapist), and free talks on Sustainable Sewing and the virtues of ‘Soft Bulk’: the soft adaptability and sculptural qualities of quilts as an art medium.
Filming and photographing quilts in the wind by the lake is one of my favorite things to do. I’m in an exhibition called #DoubleHappinessWithOqamoqa in Seoul, South Korea, celebrating the use of scraps and artists gathering virtually. I’ve discovered a completely new interest in making quilted vases and vessels, making use of glass from my recycling bin, stuffed with batting scraps, and quilted. These vases that hold water and flowers safely indoors, made with items possibly destined for the trash feel like one of the most potent discoveries of the residency. I believe I’ll have to mail one to my mom in Florida, since she’ll rarely discard a glass bottle due to the manufacturing costs on the environment, and since her garden is still overflowing with food and flowers.
Before Heidi Parkes was born in Chicago, IL in 1982, her grandmother organized a collaborative family quilt to commemorate her birth. This set the tone for a life centered on the handmade: raised in a home where sewing, mending, cooking, canning, woodworking, photography, ceramics, painting, and plasterwork were the norm.
Now based in Milwaukee, her quilting and mending celebrate the hand, and her works tug at memories and shared experience. Often using specific textiles, like an heirloom tablecloth, bed sheet, or cloth teabag, Heidi adds subtle meaning and material memory from the start. Ever curious, she works with a variety of quilting techniques including visible hand piecing and knots, improvisation, patchwork, and applique. Heidi pursues her passion for teaching by lecturing and leading workshops across the country and shares her creative process with thousands on Instagram. Heidi has exhibited in art and textile museums across the country and is a current resident artist at Milwaukee’s Lake Park through the ARTservancy with Gallery 224. Additionally, Heidi lives a handmade lifestyle, sewing her own clothes, fermenting, eating from pottery she made a decade ago, and practicing hand yoga, which she shares with other creatives on her YouTube channel.
Website and email newsletter: HeidiParkes.com
Makerie walk-mapping workshop: https://www.themakerie.com/current-retreats
This is the latest in our series of featured artists, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. The work of the 2019-2020 ARTservancy artists in residence is currently being exhibited monthly at Gallery 224. To meet the other ARTservancy artists in residence, click here.
All images courtesy of the artist, except as noted. The featured photo at the top of Heidi Parkes in Lake Park with her most recent quilt is by Eddee Daniel.