There was something missing when Heide Trepanier was studying biology as an undergraduate. She later found her niche in the abstract world of art.
Trepanier, an adjunct professor of art at Richmond, originally studied biology at Virginia Commonwealth University. As a junior she decided to switch her field of study to art and transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Later she returned to VCU to earn a master's degree.
Trepanier just received the Pollock-Krasner Grant, which supplements artists with financial support to pursue their artwork. The grant is for $16,000.
"I usually have to have a second job in the summer, but I'm just going to use it to paint. So I'll just be in my studio the whole time," Trepanier said.
Trepanier took time off from her work two years ago for the birth of her daughter, so a return to the studio this summer will allow her to delve back into her work.
She has an exhibition called "Ether" currently on display at the Reynolds Gallery in Richmond.
This is her first show in four years at the Reynolds Gallery, where she has a contract. Her comeback has shown a change in her technique. Trepanier said while her style had not changed, her materials had changed slightly. She generally uses enamel paints and outlines them in an archival paint pen. For the Ether exhibition, she used waterproof inks.
Bev Reynolds, the director of Reynolds Gallery, said she had been struck by the surface and transparency of permanent inks in Trepanier's latest work.
"She is intense. She makes great demands on herself and really works so hard to achieve the composition, the color, the dynamic surface in her work," Reynolds said.
Trepanier said she begins her work with months of planning, research and reading, days of sanding and prepping surfaces, building frames, applying coats of paint and drawing and working on the ground, rather than upright on an easel. She uses squirt bottles, sticks, string and her fingers to draw with the paint.
"I always like artists who are willing to try something new... they obviously are compelled or feel some inner need to do that," said Erling Sjovold, one of Trepanier's colleagues in Richmond's art department.
Hilary Rushton, one of Trepanier's students, says as a teacher Trepanier refuses to demonstrate her technique in order to prevent her students from altering theirs. Trepanier doesn't want people to draw from her ideas, she said.
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As much as her students learn from her, Trepanier has also benefited from teaching.
"I've learned more from my students than I think they've learned from me. And I think that's something that I've definitely gained from doing this," Trepanier said.
She said her artwork had been an extension of her inner self. If it says anything about her, it says that she has a desire to communicate something about herself to the outside world, but that something doesn't need to be explicit, it just needs to be stated, she said.
"She gives it her all. She really cares. She cares deeply about her work. She cares deeply about her family and about her teaching," Reynolds said.
Even with all these accomplishments, Trepanier says her greatest achievement is her daughter.
"Ether" is on exhibit at the Reynolds Gallery from April 1 to May 14.
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