Heather Bjornlie is a multimedia artist who explores the best way to communicate ideas through the pliability of fibers, the traditions of metalsmithing, and the layers of painting. Her work is forthcoming in Issue I: Indulge. We contacted her and asked her a few questions about her background and process.
What’s your artistic background?
I have always been interested in art. Even as a kid, my teachers would tell my parents that I spent too much time doing art and not enough time on the other subjects. My grandpa taught me how to paint when he realized I had a creative streak.
I spent 3 years at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, trying to obtain a degree in science because it was the smart thing to do. My senior year I threw it all out the window and decided to spend the next 4 years getting my Bachelors in Fine Arts with a minor in Art History. ISU’s art program was very diverse! I learned metalsmithing, drawing, painting, natural dyes, paper making, loom work, printmaking, and sculpture/casting. Studying art was the best decision I have ever made.
We noticed that jellyfish seem to be integral to a lot of your work. Could you describe your interest in these animals and what they mean to you? How do they inform your art?
Wow, what a loaded question! Jellyfish are definitely a huge obsession in my works due to several factors. The first is the question that I am still trying to explore, how can a creature with no brain, spine, or nervous system be the longest living multicellular organism on earth? These delicate creatures have thrived in the harshest environments that have killed the fiercest predators, by flowing with their situations. They don’t fight the outcome. This mindset is what helps me explore my artistic instincts, and find peace when I am going through hard times.
Are there any other subjects that you focus on creatively ? Is there anything you’d like to explore in the future?
I want to keep exploring my jellyfish subject. As I dig into one question, I get faced with other questions. It is like picking a video to watch on Youtube. Before you know it, you have fallen down a rabbit hole and spent hours on topics diverted from your original search. Sometimes, I do need a break from jellies, and I find myself working on human anatomy, pet portraiture, and complications of family dynamics.
Who are your biggest influences and inspirations?
I have three major influences that I like to gather from. The first is the American painter, Wyland. He creates massive works on buildings that draw attention from viewers world wide. One can only marvel at the undulating water patterns, and the beauty in conservation that he highlights on. The second is the local acrobatic troupe, Stasia Acrobats, based in Idaho Falls Idaho. When I need to study determination, heart, and the raw power of the human body, they are my go to circus people. The third is the conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. Studying his works and writing is what made me comfortable in exploring my multimedia practice. As LeWitt best put it in his essay, Sentences on Contemporary Art, “Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken), to physical reality, equally.”
How has your art and creative process evolved over time? What do you believe has led to this evolution?
When I first started my journey I had to learn how to do art by imitating others. In some ways we artists will never fully escape that. Subconsciously we will see an image, or hear a tune, and have those bits of memory resurface later when we are searching for inspiration to draw from. Over time though, I believe that my works have started to develop less and less from other influences, and more from the pieces that I have already created.
What are you currently working on? Do you have any plans for projects?
Currently I am trying to create impasto paintings from an aerial view of frothy water. Once I can consistently find techniques to transport my audience from their homes to the warm beaches in their memories, I want to start incorporating the thick, bubbling caps into my jellyfish works.
Speaking of projects, what would be your dream project to work on?
My dream project would be to create a large scale, permanent and interactive installation in a public environment. Providing a place to both be educated on the life lessons from jellyfish, and to experience a different world. A way to provide relief from the humdrum of our everyday routines. Imagine walking through a space with water wave lights dancing on the walls, smells of the ocean and warm sands easing your senses, hearing the sounds of calming bubbles in water. All while being surrounded by interactive exhibits on jellyfish. That total package experience is my dream project.
Any advice for young artists?
I have three tips for any artist out there, professional or amatuer. First you need to find a community of artists who share your interests. That way you can reach out to them when you need to work out an idea, or need help finding out why your piece just doesn’t look right. Having a fresh pair of eyes that share similarities to you can be exactly what you need to dig out of a funk. The second thing is to find a community of artists who you mutually respect, but may not agree with their style or presentation. This will allow you to be pushed to think outside of your comfort zone, and try different approaches you may not have thought of on your own. The last thing to do is probably the easiest said, but the hardest to follow. Stop listening to others, and stop listening to your self doubt! If you want to be an artist when others say it's foolish. Do it anyways. If you want to start a project that you think you can’t complete. Do it anyways. If you want to enter a show but don’t think you will be accepted. Stop caring, just do it. And by all means, make sure you are having fun doing it!
Something interlucent shines in the midst of other things—a beacon among the dark. To this end, Isaura Ren’s debut chapbook Interlucent reads like the calm in the eye of the storm, every poem illuminating moments both beautiful and tragic. Captivated by each word’s glow, we watch “sheer-drop cliffs turn jagged mouths” and clouds become a “pantheon” that “tufts the air like soft, bulging flesh.” The poems bring us on a journey through seascapes and storms, kitchens and cliffs, each setting illustrated in gorgeously precise language.
Ren guides us gently into the chapbook with “aubade / alba,” depicting a warm yet devastating scene of two lovers at daybreak. From the safety of their room, they create their own kingdom, shielding themselves from the judgment of their neighbors as “dusk shrugs off its velvet.” Each line brings us closer to the speaker and their partner as we zoom in from a description of the scene to the speaker’s inner monologue as they assert that “I’ll draw my wings against the coup of dawn, a shield for you and me.” And yet, underlying the tenderness of the moment is a desperation, an imploration that “you could stay forever if we time this right.”
This opening effectively sets the tone for the rest of the chapbook, which carries this longing for intimacy as the speakers “want to bottle this instant, swallow it, tuck it beside my hollow spine to warm me” but fear that “what if this ends if it was? what if we ended?”
Throughout the chapbook, Ren presents each scene with vivid imagery that draws us in and doesn’t let go. The poems feel intense and profound, grounded in private moments and historical events as Ren traverses topics like heritage, religion, and grief with masterful skill. Every line carries both weight and musicality, their words singing “such a serene song.”
My hometown of Manchester, England, has always been known as a friendly city, but it is so much more than that. It has always been one of England’s most progressive cities and is populated with people brave enough to stand, protest, occupy when there is mistreatment. This has been the case since the early 19th century when Manchester was the backdrop for The Peterloo Massacre. What began as a peaceful protest for the vote to be allowed to more than just the wealthy, landowning citizens, turned into a brutal attack to those who were protesting. While this historic event was a tragedy, it is recognised as a powerful movement for democracy in this country. Since then, Manchester has been the base for numerous protests and the people of the city have upheld the legacy. One of the most notable and widely watched protests currently happening in the city is a group of students from the University of Manchester who have previously occupied one of the university buildings due to the dissatisfaction with the way the university has treated them.
The students have already had a significant win. After a two-week occupation in a university building, they were awarded a 30% rent reduction for all students in Halls of Residence. To put this in more visceral terms, that is a six-week rent repayment for the students. However, the occupiers weren’t taking such actions for a rent reduction alone. Their demands are:
As distressing as this is, it is unfortunately not a standalone case of the university’s mistreatment. The students who occupied the Halls have been voicing the issues for most of the academic year, whether it is fridges breaking , heating not working, or (the worst, in my opinion) rats and other pests infesting the flats. There have been multiple reports of students having to sleep on the floor after accommodations had flooded. These poor living conditions are where students have been forced to spend all their time when in-person lectures were cancelled very early on in the academic year.
There was another awful incident on the university campus in early November where a young male student was racially profiled by a security guard who believed he was a drug dealer. The occupiers were quick to use their growing voice to speak out about the injustice of the situation and the impact it has on the students who live there. The Vice-Chancellor, Nancy Rothwell, decided to speak to national news rather than address and reassure her students. She claimed, on television, that she had written to the student to offer her apologies. When the occupiers brought to light that this was a lie, she had to come forward and admit her mistake. She sent out a relatively emotionless video to the students and wider public admitting that she had lied. What this shows is how her public image outside of the university appears more important than the welfare of the students who are paying and funding the organisation.