Focus on JAY Finalists - Nicole Kallenberg Heere in Visual Arts

Nicole Kallenberg Heere - photo by Forrest Clonts

Nicole Kallenberg Heere - photo by Forrest Clonts

We're chatting with the 2017 JAY Awards Finalists as we enter the last few days of voting and preparing for the JAY Awards (& Retro Christmas party!) coming up on December 5th.



Jasper: How have you seen your arts community grow over the past few years and to what do you attribute that growth?


Nicole: Because of the support Tapp’s has provided me, my arts community has grown exponentially over the past year. It’s my home base, along with 30 other wonderful artists and a knowledgeable staff. Being new to the Columbia area, the city didn’t feel like a home until I had my creative community intact. Not only has Tapp’s provided me a community, it has also provided a unique opportunity when it comes to exposure, allowing my fan base to grow beyond the people involved directly in the art scene. The many events that the Tapp’s building hosts along with its prime location on Main Street has helped elevate my art career to the next level. The venue also led to the introduction of my art to the Jasper staff, resulting in my cover and interview in Jasper magazine, which in turn helped secure my affiliation with Mitchell Hill Gallery in Charleston.


Jasper: Why is art so important right now?

Nicole: In our modern era, in my opinion, it is the responsibility of the artist to question those in power and also the things we consider “normal.” I personally have chosen to explore gender, hypermasculinity and misogyny in my artwork without attacking the other side. I have found that if I leave out anger and add in humor, people are less intimidated and more inclined to open up dialogue, sharing their thoughts not only with me, but with others viewing the art. And I think with our polarized population, healthy dialogue is important and artist are the few people with the ability to open up that dialogue, partly because of our talent and partly because we haven’t been completely vilified… yet.


Jasper: What role does art play in your life?


Nicole: What role does art not play in my life would be the easier question to answer. I cannot turn off my creativity. From my clothing, to my makeup to the vibe of my home the creativity is a constant. This year I became a mother. At 3 months old, my baby girl has already been to 5 art shows, met the gallery girls in Charleston and was a center piece in Columbia City Ballet’s production of Dracula. Come to my home and you will find it to be musically centered. My baby loves the piano, I can literally feel her body relax when she hears it, Chopin and the Brooklyn Duo are her favorites. We also listen and dance to a lot of Motown. I’m not sure if she will be an artist, but I want her to understand and appreciate the arts. And much like dictators and the church use art as propaganda, I too use it in my home. My baby girl is surrounded by images of female empowerment… wonder woman doing yoga and Marie Antoinette wearing boxing gloves just to name a few examples.


Jasper: What role does community play in the execution of your art?


Nicole: Community is everything in my art. Unlike many artists, I do not paint solely for myself, I also paint for all of you. Public opinion can be the most rewarding and at times the most painful part of being an artist. I think a lot of people don’t understand how incredibly difficult it can be to put your creations - your time and heart - out into the world for everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, to judge. And maybe this is why I feel that my art belongs to the community and not just to me. Maybe its detachment, maybe it makes me feel like the art is more impactful if it has wings… if it can belong to you too.


Jasper: Is there anyone you’d like to thank for their support of your arts career?

Nicole: Behind every great woman is a great man… that’s how the saying goes, right? While my art is gender bending and glorifies female empowerment, the truth is that I don’t think I would a) have the understanding to pull off my ideas or b) the self-esteem to do so, if I didn’t have a life filled with supportive men. My mother was supportive of my love of arts and connected me with some great female artists at a young age, but unfortunately my mother had a short life. My father has supported my love of art since the day I was able to hold a crayon and my husband has been another rock since shortly after we met. Not to mention the hell I put my brother through growing up painting and altering so many of his beloved toys. With my father in my corner, I received my BFA, and after meeting my husband I had the support system I needed to pursue this as a full time career. I think that’s why my art has a light hearted element to it, I love men and I love being a woman, I’m just tired of being a second class citizen in this male dominated culture.




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