Saving Mother Nature
By Olivia Manthey and Jordan Staggs | Artwork by Heather Freitas
Art is such an arbitrary creature; there is no definition of what it is or how it should be created. Phoenix-based mixed-media master Heather Freitas has taken her idea of art and run with it! Not only does she have a distinctive way of portraying the world as she perceives it, but she is also doing good by helping the environment at the same time. For every painting she sells, she donates ten dollars to the nonprofit One Tree Planted, which in turn plants a tree for every dollar they receive. It’s always a joy to witness people using their talents for good and not just for self-seeking endeavors.
In just about every piece of Heather’s art is some aspect of found or recycled objects. It seems she can do just about anything as she uses sequins, ripped paper, tabs from soda cans, and other items to create interest and texture along with her layers of paint and ink. “When you bring in elements that can’t be reproduced or torn exactly the same ever again, a moment in time is created that can never be re-created,” she says. Also in keeping with her environmentalist efforts, many of Heather’s pieces, starting in 2016–2017, depict endangered animals or have a message of conservation attached.
“In 2017, I was awarded my second solo exhibition, and I decided I wanted to focus on documenting all the species in Arizona that were currently endangered or threatened,” she explains. “That was a big turning point not only in my career but also in my life. I thought maybe if I could paint all of these species and hang them in one room, people could feel the weight of the issue we are facing right here, right now. From then on, I vowed that I would document as many endangered or threatened species as I could and compile a database in paintings so that people would take action themselves. Unfortunately, even at the rate that I paint, I will not be able to paint all of these species in my lifetime.”
My collection of paintings will continue to grow until the day I die, in hopes that I can influence the change needed.
The sad truth is that the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species currently estimates over twenty-eight thousand species on earth are threatened with extinction. “My collection of paintings will continue to grow until the day I die, in hopes that I can influence the change needed,” Heather says with determination. “Having the ability to incorporate recycled materials into my work is also very important to me because I feel it adds that extra layer to the statement. Not only is a piece documenting an endangered species, it is also using the very materials that add to many of the hazards that species (including ours) are facing today.”
Heather does just about anything in her power to leave this world better than she found it, inspiring her fans and peers to do the same.
Her complex layering of colors, meaning, and humor is the total package—her work is avant-garde and at the same time recognizable and relatable to many. She paints things that we have seen before and that we recognize, yet when we see them for the first time on her canvases, they are surprising. For example, her painting Nine One Nine depicts a rooster but instead of a fleshy growth for a crest, its comb is made of syringes.
Not all of her paintings focus on the environment and animals. Some of Heather’s contemporary pop art is about giving power to the people. Undefined and unable to be put in any box, Heather creates work that varies in subject and meaning. Some of her pieces, such as Rehab and Greed, are serious in nature, whereas her commentary on pop culture is amusing and punny—for example, there’s Wine Goes In Wisdom Comes Out and her painting of a doughnut that says, “Eat More Hole Foods.” Her figurative works include Audrey Hepburn, Bob Marley, Princess Diana, and many more.
Speak your truth because we all have the power to influence the world and art is one of the best tools to help you do so. I like to tell people that if someone can fly to the moon, you can accomplish your dream too.
Heather has partnered with the city of Tempe, Arizona, to show her work in outdoor spaces as part of the She Tempe public art project. She also collaborated with the jewelry brand Alex and Ani on a painting for its Scottsdale store. “They were so much fun!” she says of working with the brand. “Alex and Ani released a chakra collection, and I was asked to do a painting of the Root Chakra for their big release day in Scottsdale. It was a lot of fun and inspired me to continue exploring the chakras in the arts.” Another of her favorite projects was working with the Gila River Arena in Glendale, painting cow skulls for the band KISS when they performed there. Rock on, Heather!
Through it all, Heather says being a professional artist hasn’t been easy but it has been worth it. “I remember my first collection, my Wasteland Collection. As I was creating it for my first solo exhibition, people told me I would not sell any of my works because they were too sad. Three years later, I have sold over four hundred original works,” she says. “Speak your truth because we all have the power to influence the world and art is one of the best tools to help you do so. I like to tell people that if someone can fly to the moon, you can accomplish your dream too.”
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