'When the Water Rises: Recent Paintings by Julie Heffernan' on display at Palmer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — "When the Water Rises: Recent Paintings by Julie Heffernan" is on display July 10 through Sept. 2 at the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State.

Heffernan’s recent paintings explore imaginative scenarios and alternative habitats as her personal response to the threat of environmental disasters. In the wake of recent calamities like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, Heffernan imagines fantastical worlds in trees or on rafts as waters rise across the globe. Topical references to ISIS, Syrian refugees, and the debate surrounding climate change emerge in the show through 11 monumental canvases. Figures in the works that create, tend and nurture suggest that humans can adapt to a changing environment even as they allude to environmental systems on the verge of collapse.

“Julie's work addresses excess and its relationship to climate change, issues that become more relevant, more pressing, each day,” said Courtney Taylor, original curator of the show at the LSU Museum of Art and the Shaw Center for the Arts. “The beauty of her painting pulls us in to consider these fraught issues, but, in addition to considering these catastrophes and our complicity, we're pushed to consider our response.”

Julie Heffernan, "Sky Burial"

Julie Heffernan, "Sky Burial" (diptych), 2016, oil on canvas, 54x100 inches. Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery.

Image: Julie Heffernan

Heffernan’s paintings, Taylor said, suggest a response that can be more creative, empathetic and in sync with the larger picture and the environment.

Palmer curator Joyce Robinson agreed.

“Heffernan is a remarkable painter,” Robinson said, "intricately detailed and evoking both frightening allegories of Hieronymus Bosch and sublime vistas of Thomas Cole or Albert Bierstadt.

“We hope visitors in our region and beyond will take advantage of this opportunity to see these provocative works by a major figure in the contemporary art world.”

Heffernan received her master of fine arts in painting from Yale University and a bachelor of fine arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work is represented in major museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, McNay Art Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Palmer Museum of Art. A former professor of painting at Penn State, Heffernan resides in Brooklyn and is a professor of fine arts at Montclair State University. 

"When the Water Rises" was organized by the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, which is available for purchase in the Palmer Museum Store.

Exhibition programming

Gallery Talk

Allegory and Storytelling in Recent Paintings by Julie Heffernan

Friday, July 13, 12:10 p.m.

Megan Wanttie, Pincus Family Foundation Endowment Intern

Docent Choice Tour

Is it Hot in Here? Recent Paintings by Julie Heffernan

Sunday, Aug. 12 

Dotty Ford, docent

Gallery Talk

When the Water Rises: Recent Paintings by Julie Heffernan

Friday, Aug. 24, 12:10 p.m.

Joyce Robinson, curator

Artist Lecture

“When the Water Rises”

Tuesday, Aug. 28, 4:30 p.m.

Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

Julie Heffernan, artist

Documentary Film

Screening of “Managing Risk in a Changing Climate” (30 minutes)

Tuesday, Aug. 28, 7 p.m.

Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

Produced by WPSU in partnership with the Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management and with the financial support of the National Science Foundation.

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 8,850 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents 10 exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for a calendar of upcoming events, visit palmermuseum.psu.edu.

Last Updated July 10, 2018