Meet Heidi Annalise, the fourth artist selected as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument artist-in-residence.
Written by Ashley M. Biggers
Photography courtesy Heidi Annalise
Spending her days painting crags and petroglyphs of Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument is far removed from artist Heidi Annalise’s recent day-to-day. Working on the East Coast as a Chinese-to-English translator, she began to feel that her then job was not her true calling. In fall 2013, she picked up an evening oil-painting class. “I’m a fairly practical person. You hear from society that life as an artist is hard and borderline impossible,” she says. Yet, as impractical as it sounded, art seemed to be her dream job.
She visited her native Colorado to quench her craving for wide-open spaces and knew it was time for change. “It’s a soul nourishing part of life to be out in nature. I never had that on the East Coast, where it’s really hard to escape and find solitude in nature. I realized it was time that I start pulling life toward things that meant the most to me,” she says. She relocated to Denver, only to continue her search: this time for a national parks artist-in-residence program.
She spent May 2017 as the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument artist-in-residence—the fourth artist sponsored by the monument’s volunteer friends group and the Bureau of Land Management. The Friends of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument provides a monetary stipend, while the BLM provides housing during the artist’s tenure at Dripping Springs, meaning the artists can walk outside the door and be in the monument.
Although the previous three artists (Meg G. Freyermuth, Emmitt Booher, and Kayla Blundell) were from the Las Cruces area, when she applied, Heidi had never been to the monument. “I think it was my sense of adventure calling me to a part of the country I’d never been to before. And my desire to understand the political controversy surrounding the national monument from first-hand experience instead of drawing my own conclusions from afar,” she says, referencing the monument’s review initiated by President Trump’s administration.
The artist-in-residence program has given the painter time to explore the landscape in depth. Of course, Heidi has painted the monument’s major photo opp (aka the Organ Mountains silhouette), but smaller, less obvious sites have drawn her artist’s eye as well. Petroglyphs have become frequent subjects in her signature mint-tin oils. Intimidated by the prospect of lugging around the complicated equipment oil painters need to work outside, Heidi pursued miniatures. She often paints the inside lid of Altoid tins with her palette of oils left in the reservoir showing her work as she mixes colors to arrive at the perfect shade. The format gelled with her, allowing her to work covertly and anywhere. Plus “normal people can afford these smaller pieces,” she says, which may not be true of her large-scale canvas or board paintings.
Even at this diminutive scale, she may paint one three-by-two-inch tin for days, returning day after day to capture details. “The landscape here has so many rock faces and exposed earth that it becomes a blank canvas for the changing sunlight throughout the day. It’s given me an opportunity to study the different colors I can find in the light and shadow. I can put a pause on something one day and return the next, trying to capture the right light of the sunset on the rock, for example,” she says.
In keeping with the barter arrangement of the artist-in-residence program, Heidi taught a painting class during May and hopes to exhibit in a group show in the future.
“The main message I try to get across,” she says, “is that creativity can be worked into your life in small ways. It doesn’t have to be serious, expensive, or involve heavy set of painting equipment. It can be in mint tins or a sketch book tucked in your pocket.”
See Heidi’s work:
Instagram at @heidi.annalise.art.
For more information on the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument Artist-in-Residence program, organmountainsdesertpeaks.org/artist-in-residence.
Congratulations to Gabriella Banegas, the September 2017 Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument artist-in-residence. Gabriella is a print maker from the Netherlands who grew up in New Mexico where she found inspiration in the Organ Mountains. Learn more about her work at LasCrucesMagazine.com/OMDPArtist