The Dreamscapes of Josh Heilaman

Art Focus Oklahoma, September 1st, 2011

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PAINTING A DREAM The art of Josh Heilaman gives glimpse into dreamscapes, fantasy in October art show

By Heide Brandes

Walking through the imagination of Josh Heilaman is like walking through a dream full of strange animal characters, swirling landscapes and slightly off kilter personalities. With bright colors born of childhood art supplies and a slew of creatures never seen before, Heilaman’s artwork is adventurous. However, when his solo show opens at DNA Galleries this October, even he has no idea what pieces will be on display. “To be honest, I’m still fine-tuning what I will present,” Heilaman said. “So far, I really don’t have a theme or a fully focused direction, but I work best under pressure.” One thing for sure, however, is that Heilaman will bring his dream creatures and psychedelic landscapes out of the canvas into a three-dimensional world. For those familiar with his art, the DNA Galleries show will unveil a new facet to the local artist’s talent. From Oct. 14 to 26, Heilaman’s signature work will be featured at DNA Galleries in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District. An opening for the exhibit is set for 7 to 11 p.m. on Oct. 14 during the Plaza District’s Second Friday art walk. “Josh has been showing his work for years, and it has this huge mass appeal that I don’t even understand,” said Amanda Bradway, who owns DNA Galleries with her husband. “So many people connect with the works we have hanging here from our private collection. I feel it is a bit rare to see his work in a solo exhibit nowadays since he has been busy with school, so we had to grab him when he was available. His last show with us was in 2009 and was probably one of the best openings we've had at our gallery.” Besides being a fan of his art, Bradway says the artist is also a friend. She met Heilaman when he was working at Warehouse Music. “I found out he did art when we hung out at his apartment and was absolutely blown away by the brilliance and originality. I had never seen anything like it, especially in Oklahoma,” she said. Josh Heilaman’s talents go beyond visual art; he is also a graphic designer and musician specializing in beat, sound and video manipulation. For more than 15 years, his artwork and music has been seen and heard throughout the United States. One of his musical projects — an entirely improvisational group called Esphing — will perform at his show opening on Oct. 14. Heilaman said his art now is much like the art he created as a child, full of child-like wonder and imagination. “I started out drawing as a kid to pass the time. I spent a lot of time by myself, so I drew pictures all the time,” he said. “Before I knew it, 30 years have passed, and I’m still drawing. I realize the core of my art is still the exact same, but I continue to try to perfect it.” His characters, which range from pink octopi to weird-eyed girls, are based in emotion, he said. The characters all represent the feeling behind someone the artist knows or the emotions he feels himself. “The physical appearance is what I’m into at the time — wombats or pandas or sea creatures. I try to combine all elements to create a chimera of sorts,” he said. Bradway agrees, finding a fantasy element in his work. “(His art) has ethereal, dreamy, imaginative characters with a sort of Asian influence. They seem to be alive, but something you would see in a dream,” Bradway says. “His backgrounds are brightly colored waves that often have metallic or sparkly paint mixed in, which creates a setting for his characters to live and breathe.” This show, however, will unveil the three-dimensional aspects of Heilaman’s imagination. “I’ll be unveiling a number of 3-D works. I’m taking the paintings into the 3-D realm, and I think it will have the same effects as my painting,” Heilaman said. “I’ll still have some paintings involved, but I feel like it’s time to show something new to the public. I’ve been doing 3-D art for a while, but I’ve never shown it. I think ultimately, people will have the same kind of reaction as they do with the paintings — whatever that reaction may be.” The Heilaman collection is also perfect for Oklahoma City’s gallery. Bradway and her husband opened DNA Galleries in October 2008 with the mission to promote local artists and the gallery itself. As owners of DNA Galleries, the Bradways were in the position to choose art they were drawn to or handmade items that were unique. “We thought it would be great to bring it all together in one place. We feel strongly that urban contemporary art is under-represented in Oklahoma and there wasn’t really a store that focused specifically on all handmade wares and the things people made locally,” Bradway said.