Follow that line and see where it takes you

As part of the Pantone “Color of the Year” exhibit, the nationally-known artist Heather Day has completed a 95 foot indoor mural at UICA that explores the process of markmaking and the physicality of paint.

Image courtesy UICA.

San Francisco-based artist Heather Day has been working for multiple years on mural projects alongside her regular works on paper and canvas before approaching her largest mural to date at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA). She says it takes a while to gain the trust of businesses and institutions to let her take over a full wall.

Detail images of Day’s mural at UICA. Images credit Holly Bechiri.

“Especially the way I break the rules about where paint belongs,” she confesses, as we notice drips not just on the wall but down to the floor and on the railing. But gain trust she has—as evidenced by her most recent mural opportunity: the 95 foot wall running along the exterior windows on Fulton Street at UICA.

The work, similar to her works on paper and canvas, is a luscious exploration of color and the pure physicality of paint, with all its drips and textures and brilliance.

“I travel quit a bit and go out into the natural world to observe textures and line and interaction and moments found in nature—but also found in the city. Everywhere from incredible moments to mundane situations in our neighborhood, even looking at that cracks in the sidewalk,” she says of the inspiration for her work. “I’m following that line and seeing it where it takes you—that is really what my work is about.”

With her mural at UICA, Day says she’s focusing less on nature and more on the experience and process of embracing the process of engaging a giant wall.

“It’s as literal or as romantic as you want it to be: it’s just paint on the wall,” she says of that process, “but as I start making the mark…I’m letting it guide me and see where it takes me—and that for me is often enough.”

There’s also an element of exploring relationships in her work, as she draws inspiration from observing relationships between people as well as relationships in architecture and in nature. That observation of daily life, paying attention to color, form, line…all feeds into her work — and vice versa.

“When you’re painting, you‘re diving into a different kind of vocabulary,” she says, “and you start seeing it all around you.”

Heather discusses her recent work with editor Holly Bechiri. Image courtesy UICA.

Just like the written language, there’s a fair amount of editing within the process of painting as well. What do you remove? What do you change as you go along? That process of interacting with the work is important no matter what size work Day is creating.

“Deciding what to keep, what stays, what goes: that’s what the process of painting is all about—even when I’m in the studio working all alone on a small canvas,” she says. A mural, she says, is just a giant canvas, that also needs to be edited. Rather than scaling up large pieces, Day sees them as separate explorations, with the large work informing her smaller works just as much as the other way around.

No matter the size, the visceral and purely pleasurable and playful way Day explores the process of markmaking is bound to be enough for many viewers as well. There’s something about just being enveloped in color and beauty—and a 95 foot long wall, when under the masterful hand of Heather Day, is a good place to feel enveloped.

More details of the mural. Photos credit Holly Bechiri.

“Color of the Year Presented by Pantone and X-Rite”

Visit Heather Day’s mural, along with the rest of the work in “Color of the Year” celebrating Pantone’s Ultra-Violet, at the opening this Friday night.
UICA, Fulton & Division
Friday, April 6, 5:30–9 p.m.
Music, food, admission is all complimentary.
Cash bar available.

Learn more about Heather Day on her website.
Keep up with her next creations on Instagram.

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