By Liz Martin, board president at 934 Gallery
Heidi Clifford, aka Primary Child, is a Columbus-based muralist, installation artist and designer. Through their work, Clifford brings color to the world, connects communities with meaningful public art, and balances play within artmaking. See their newest exhibition In Transition: Untethered at 934 Gallery Dec. 1-16.
Liz: Tell us about your artistic style and how it continues to evolve.
Heidi: As I have developed as an artist, I’ve focused on a few mediums that are quite different from each other. My BFA is in graphic design, and that has served as the foundation for running my mural and design business. As a muralist, I have primarily used latex paint for the last five years, but more recently, my business partner and I have gotten into spray paint (like our mural at 934 Gallery right now) and find it to be a faster and more effective medium for where we are taking our mural work. As an installation artist, I often use tissue paper, which was never intentional. It began as a very affordable way to create a lot of something relatively quickly and has evolved to be the primary material of my large-scale installations.
Liz: What motivates you to create, and what inspires you as an artist?
Heidi: Seeing what others create, and getting to see the impact I’m making in the community keeps me motivated. I get most inspired by bright, colorful things — it’s so simple but home décor, the things we use every day, can be so boring, but having a home filled with colorful things holds so much energy for me and makes me excited for life.
Liz: How do you choose a color palette?
Heidi: Color is everything to my work. When thinking about palettes, sometimes they come together because of pre-existing materials, but often, there is reasoning behind my color choices. When painting, I prefer vivid, rich and bright colors that feel good together. When it comes to installations, usually I’m working with existing tissue paper colors, and I’ll carve out a palette from what I’ve got. Limiting myself and using the paper in different ways produces fun and unexpected outcomes for the floral works I make. If I am choosing new colors, I’m considering what I want the final piece to feel like, and how different colors on a large scale will feel to the audience and viewers.
Liz: You recently started Primary Child Studios as a full-time business. If you could give any advice to an artist about going full time on their own, what would it be?
Heidi: Going your own way is hard. It can be very unstable and feels like you’re doing everything wrong at times. There is no easy, simple or right way to do it. You have to start with centering yourself on what it is that you want to do and make that your cornerstone — what you always come back to. You have to network and be involved, and community build to get others behind your ideas. Showing up for yourself, and for others, and working hard for yourself, and others, will get you so far.
Hand in hand with this is planning. You have to have a framework of your goals, otherwise you risk instability in spreading yourself thin with projects you’re not passionate about. Surrounding yourself with good people is so important too — friends, mentors, colleagues, etc., those who can help you reach your goals, and re-center you when needed. Never underestimate what you can learn from others.
Liz: What’s the best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
Heidi: The best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now is the tangible, positive flow of energy for the arts that is circulating throughout the city. There are a growing number of art movements, districts and events happening right now, with a lot of organizations that have new and refreshed leadership. It is exciting to see the energy that people have for the arts in this city, and it is deeply validating to see the city caring and committing to doing more for the arts.
Liz: What are you most excited about as an artist in Columbus?
Heidi: The Greater Columbus Arts Council is working on their five-year public art plan, and how to get more public art throughout Columbus and Franklin County. I work in a studio downtown in Franklinton and am proud of what this city has to offer artistically, but I am most excited to see where this plan takes us and to be a part of the efforts to get more public art up. I currently serve as the co-president for the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts, and work as the marketing coordinator for the Franklinton Arts District. Through both organizations, I’m proud to be a leader in the larger arts community of Columbus, and to be advocating for more opportunities for artists in the city. It feels great to see more happening, and long-standing events growing, with greater support.
Clifford has an exhibition of new installations and existing work reimagined at 934 Gallery located in Milo-Grogan, titled In Transition: Untethered. All are invited to an opening reception with the artist on Dec. 1, 7-10 p.m. and closing reception on Dec. 16, 7-10 p.m. at 934 Cleveland Ave., Columbus, OH 43201.
This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.