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 Myron Robert Heise  (1934 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Nebraska      Known for: urban views, nocturne, figure

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Myron Robert Heise
An example of work by Myron Robert Heise
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A native of Bancroft, Nebraska, and a resident of New York City, Myron Heise paints the subjects that are nearest to his heart--local people at the local bar, rolling farmland and scenes from Manhattan including jazz clubs and subway stations. Heise is an artist-in-residence at the Niehardt Foundation and frequently returns to reconnect with his past.

He was born on a farm near Bancroft and showed early art talent. As a teenager he took correspondence courses in cartooning and commercial art, and at age 18 enrolled at the University of Omaha majoring in Art. He also studied English and Psychology. He moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League with Frank Mason, Marshall Glasier, Robert Brackman, and Arthur Lee.

In 1962, he went to Italy to study in Florence at the Academy of Fine Arts. He became a part of a group of international artists pursuing realistic art and had his first one-man exhibit at the Santatrinita Gallery in Prato, Italy. He returned to the United States in 1966 and became part of the emerging realism movement and was a founding member of the Alliance of Figurative Artists, serving as Chairman from 1976 to 1978. He exhibited with the Street Painters of New York from their initial exhibition at 47 Bond Street Gallery in March, 1978.

Heise also taught painting in New York at the New School of Social Research and the Educational Alliance Art School, and in Amherst, Massachusetts, was on the faculty of the School for Body/Mind Centering.

He often returns to Bancroft, Nebraska, painting his "roots" and expressing his great empathy for humanism and regionalism.

Source: "The Street Painters feelism"

Periodical: "Nebraska Life",'Country Days, City Nights', November/December 2002
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"Myron Heise: Country Days/City Nights" by Don Gray

A portion of Myron Heise's life work features oil paintings done in New York City and his hometown of Bancroft, Nebraska over a twenty year span from 1981-2000. Could there be two more opposite poles of existence and artistic subject matter than these examples of urban and rural life? In both a personal and artistic sense, the pastoral farmlands offer a respite from the noise and hurly-burly of one of the largest metropolises in the world.

Heise, in his 60s, a long-time Manhattan resident, is a member of a New York City-based group of artists called "The Street Painters," that was formed in the late 1970s. Similar in spirit, if not in style, to the Ash Can School early in the 20th Century, The Street Painters believe in painting directly from life, whether, urban, suburban or rural. As such, this group of artists has provided an alternative to the often bizarre art that has little to do with the reality of the lives we live that has dominated the art world, particularly during the last half of the century.

Thus, a painting of a subway by Myron Heise, a McDonald's restaurant, a Manhattan skyscraper at night, or signs and clogged traffic in Times Square, have all been painted on the spot. In such a painting environment, far from the safety of the studio, the artist is subject to the vagaries of life on the street. He may be admired, scorned, jostled, ridiculed, ignored or threatened.

This reality of painting on the street accounts for a certain rough sketchiness of many of the works, where the artist is attempting to capture the energy and essentials of the scene perhaps with a one-time "alla prima" shot without the time or peace of the studio to meditate on long-term artistic decisions. People are talking, dishes are rattling and orders taken in McDonald's, plus the ever-present New York cacophony of car horns and sirens, the implicit danger of the streets, and the even greater danger of drawing attention to yourself on the street.

Painting landscapes in a rural setting is clearly a more relaxed environment, but an artist is still subject to the occasional passerby and the vicissitudes of weather and insects. Whereas the city paintings reflect the grime and clangor of the city -- many in dark colors painted at night -- the country paintings are peaceful and refreshing in their lime-green setting. When seen together, the urban and rural subjects clearly reveal the striking contrast of these very different worlds.

The starkness of the city, as Heise expresses it, particularly the subway, tends to emphasize urban loneliness. Humanity is trapped in the harsh confines of inhuman forms. However, in "Chinatown, Night," 1999, and "Grace Church," 1998, illuminated towers rise above the darkened streets as if beacons of escape and salvation. The meaning of these beckoning towers is interestingly similar, perhaps, to the salvation offered the artist by a return to the farmlands of his birthplace.

In "Shorty's Bar," the four men find a commonality and community in their card games and long lives together in Bancroft that contrasts starkly with the alienation and urban jumble of the the subway paintings. On the other hand, the form of the spire of "Grace Church" is eerily similar to that of the evergreen in "Neihardt Day," 1984, in Bancroft, both serving as the focal points of their respective paintings, and as symbols of aspiration and the fundamental life force.

How many contemporary artists would see the artistic possibilities in the workshop mess of machinery, tools and vehicles under repair in "Hansen's Blacksmith Shop," 1983, and "BAC Garage," 1984, to say nothing of the paintings of the city, generally?

For reasons of economy, and the fact that it is a "New York thing to do," none of the paintings are framed (in The Street Painters' many exhibitions in New York City, few of the paintings are ever hung with more than strip framing). We see Myron Heise's paintings just as the artist removed them from his easel on the streets of New York City, to transport them back to his studio on the Lower East Side by subway from Times Square.
----------------------------------------------------------------------The following is by Jessie Benton Evans:

What's it like for an artist to set up an easel in the middle of Times Square at night, or the sidewalks, and subway stations of New York? "Being a part of the city gives energy," says Manhattan-based artist Myron Heise. "I've been painting and drawing on the city's streets for forty years. "People, cars, lights are always changing. It's exciting."

The open-to-life response that enables Heise to actually relish painting among New York's throngs of people, towering buildings, darkened subways and cacophony of car horns and sirens is evident when you meet him. Enthusiastic and friendly, he enjoys interacting with people as he paints. One immediately feels the clear receptiveness so evident in his paintings.

"People always talk while you paint on the streets," says Heise.

"We paint in the middle of the island in Times Square, so most people think we're performers. Street people yell, 'You've got it! Great, wonderful! Keep it up. That's beautiful!' Some ask the price, but I don't tell them. If they think it has value they might bother me. I go with several artist friends for protection. We watch each other's paintings if one of us needs a break. We give each other good energy."

The reality of painting on the streets is evident in Heise's paintings. Most are one-time "alla prima" responses to the moment at hand, far from the safety, refinement and reflection of painting in the studio. Heise's style, while three dimensional, emphasizes the edges of things. Many of his images have a certain stark, almost surreal undertone.

Heise's childhood was spent in a farm in Bancroft, Nebraska. The paintings of his recent trips to this small town of 500 people contrast so sharply with his city images that it seems incredible that human beings could live in such opposite environments. "I have a mission to paint all the stores in Bancroft," says Heise. Many of these paintings show the interiors of bars, blacksmith and auto repair shops, which tie more closely with his predominantly urban images.

After studying art at the University of Nebraska, Heise headed for the Art Student's League in New York. "I loved it," he says. "It can be overwhelming because there is so much happening at once. You have to find your own group and focus. I found my set of artist friends and the art world." Heise has lived in Manhattan ever since.

Many of Heise's paintings are night scenes. Car lights and neon signs glare, and crowds cram the sidewalks like silhouetted ghosts. One feels the condensation of people and buildings, movement, activity. "New York is a 24 hour city," says Heise. "We paint under street lights so we can see our paint. Neon lights flash and change color. Night people, artificial light -- night symbolizes our time. I may have a dark vision, but I'm positive about humanity. I'm trying to express my vision of the world."
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"The Light and Dark World of Myron R. Heise"
Copyright by Don Gray

In a century when the scramble to abandon reality in art for the latest artificial ism has been mindlessly intense and nearly universal, Myron R. Heise is a refreshing exception. Heise has long been committed to his special realist vision of New York City and the landscape of his native Bancroft, Nebraska. New York's gritty bars, desolate subways, the problematic streets and people who inhabit them vie with and complement the fresh green fields and pristine skies of the rural Midwest. New York City at night is a magnificent, nearly visionary event, especially the skyscrapers. Heise also ably expresses this poetry of light and form melding with darkness. The artist may see the inspiring and aspiring night-time beauty as an urban equivalent to the cleanliness of mid-western farmland, a kind of escape from the negative aspects of the city. Symbolically speaking, Heise's paintings of Manhattan towers reaching toward the sky is very similar to his reaching out to familial roots and nature in Bancroft).

Heise's style, while three-dimensional, emphasizes contours, the edges of things. He has his own expressive and pictorial means that reveal a certain strangeness in the postures, faces and gestures of people, sometimes seeming involved in either a "danse macabre" or frozen in time as the title of one of his subway paintings suggests. Heise is a realist, but with surrealist undertones that create a deeper, darker substratum to his realism, adding bite and character. Myron R. Heise reveals something of the angst and spiritual darkness underlying our seemingly prosperous, misled, media-driven society.



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