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HEATHER SHIRIN CAPTURES THE PURITY OF RELATIONSHIPS

by Britt Chester

| @awfullybrittish

“I always say that I love my husband,” remarked Heather Shirin, 39. “But I like to talk to my girlfriends about him.”

Shirin, an artist currently residing in a suburb of Asheville with her husband of four years, is fascinated with the personal connections between friends.

Her current show at Winston-Salem’s Delurk Gallery, titled “Keeping You Inside,” focuses on the relationships that women have with each other, whether intimate or personal.

“A lot of people don’t see anything erotic about my work, but the younger crowd, the off-the-fly crowd, get straight into the lesbian-esque idea,” she said.

Shirin’s paintings are anything but erotic, but the idea that women embracing one another could symbolize some sort of sexual undertone is not lost on her.

“I was interested in showing that love is not necessarily erotic, but beautiful and real and tangible, and something we don’t always celebrate in our society upon seeing an intimate setting between two females because it’s in the taboo arena to show same-sex anything these days,” she said. “A mother holding her child shouldn’t be something that is frowned upon simply because it’s an adult mother and child.”

This series, or shift in her artistic focus, became clear to her when she moved to North Carolina six years ago from Boston, Mass. Leaving behind her closest friends and family, she felt a certain emptiness in not having those close ties.

“Women have something different with other women “” something different than the relationships that men have with other men,” she said. “We need feedback or approval or opinions “” just something.”

Shirin’s latest work is focused strongly on this idea. Her canvasses are large pieces of wood, and her preferred medium is a mixture of exotic printed paper and paint. Whether or not it was deliberate, the foundation of wood could be construed as the subconscious intention that relationships must be rooted naturally, and those relationships that are nurtured spread roots and grow.

Aesthetically, the color palette stays on the warm side of the spectrum “” reds, oranges, yellows “” but does tend to dip into the violets and greens.

For the visual structure, Shirin acknowledges one of her favorite artists, Gustav Klimt, as laying the groundwork for her composition of females. Shirin, like Klimt, dresses her subjects in ornate patterns, often surrounding them in golden backgrounds speckled with detail.

Shirin started her quest into the artistic world in the fourth grade when she began working with a private tutor. Her instructors told her parents that she was drawing and illustrating well above her age, and her parents nurtured this gift. By the time she was in the eighth grade she was taking painting classes, studying artists such as Bob Ross on television and laying the groundwork for what would hopefully be her career. Upon graduating high school, Shirin was the president of the Art Honor Society. In 1997, she graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts “” a degree that she admits didn’t help her in getting full-time work.

“It really seems like only in the past 20 or 30 years that it’s become acceptable to follow your dreams as a woman artist,” she said. She also mentioned that in that time, specifically within the past four years, has the idea of women painting women become more popular thanks to gallery exhibitions and the online community.

“The internet really changed the game,” she said. “I worked in daycare for a long time but recognized that the Internet is where I could make a living.”

She went on to pursue an education focused on HTML, a digital coding language used for developing and building websites and digital content. She also studied the Adobe programs and became proficient enough to start a career as a graphic designer. She operated SiteImages.com for many years, still does, but chose to pursue painting as a career in 2012.

“The younger generation sees a freedom in opening up, and that has allowed female artists to really flourish,” she said. !

WANNA go?

Heather Shirin’s “Keeping You Inside” is currently on display at Delurk Gallery and will hang until Nov. 2. Delurk Gallery is open Wednesday- Saturday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Shirin’s show is shared in the Gallery with Delurk’s own Katie Chasteen.

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