Rio Nido (1987), another painting in the show, was made when Heilmann first moved out to the Hamptons and established a studio there. It’s titled after a town in northern California where her family went for summer vacations and features a dark ray shape festooned with splotches of bright colors—referring to both the colored lights people would string on their porches in Rio Nido and the sense of liberation she found in moving her studio to the Hamptons.
Heilmann’s Green Mirage and Red Mirage, both completed in 2017, respond directly to Flavin’s early 1960s series of “Icons,” in which he first bridged painting and sculpture by attaching light bulbs to painted wood constructions.
“He used just plain porcelain fixtures with a bulb screwed in that are pretty beautiful and really in keeping with the way I think about making things,” says Heilmann, who used the same 30-inch-high scale for her canvas-and-wood constructions, painted with vibrant combinations like radiant green inflected with bands of turquoise, red, and purple. Heilmann says her color choices are informed as much by fashion—“that color looks good with that color”—as by
’s color theories.
“Everyday life and art history all join together in my work,” she says.
It’s Heilmann’s extraordinary use of color, in particular, that drew Morgan to place her work within the Flavin Art Institute. “The unassuming quality of her work lulls you in,” Morgan says, “and then you realize all the quirks and careful counterbalancing that take place within the geometric and color combinations.”