We profile local artist John Heinz in the spring’s Music Issue out now. Here is an online-only supplement to the DTA Profile of Heinz.
By John Heinz
My art is about something. My childhood influence was Frederick Remington, the master of the noble horse. My father was in the old Army, the horse-powered artillery, and a family friend served in the pursuit of Villa in Mexico; he was an artist but devoted to landscapes. Dad was a staff artist on the Chicago Daily News; he took me to the Harding Museum in Chicago, where we saw Remington’s bronze figure group “Coming through the Rye.”
Maybe Remington influenced me in getting into the cavalry, the armored cavalry. There I met an artist who painted scores of horses to decorate the base signage. The Cold War draft was a valuable experience for me in the military pressure cooker; they put me in the medical corps, sent me to Germany, and let me alone to carve horses. I became a ship’s carpenter and art reference librarian, among a lot of things.
In the year 2000 I again answered my country’s call when the Beacon-News called for volunteers for a commission to aid an endangered downtown building; the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall (GAR), on Downer Place, near the river. GAR was built in 1868 by Civil War veterans. As I understand, the commission is to keep the spirit of the builders alive in the modern world.
I have painted over a dozen scenes of the unique building – itself a work of art. It is a modified octagon building, as is the Taj Mahal. The octagon plan was promoted in the nineteenth century by phrenologist Orson Fowler. It is fascinating to view the hall from overhead and consider it in relation to Fowler’s anatomy studies. But the fellows of 1868 were not mystics; some were artists, and the beauty of the original interior is still being researched. We know that the Grand Army guys wanted a place to talk out the events that they had survived. My art tries to show them letting off steam in their wonderful postwar world.
Maybe my best work is “Halloween,” with costumed people on the newly marketed bicycle in front of the GAR hall. I suspect that they called it the GAR hall. It may owe a bit to Paul Newman/Butch Cassidy but mostly this painting is a tribute to Remington’s bronze “Coming through the Rye.”
My small work “Loie Fuller in the Dooryard” references the work done by exotic dancers in entertaining our troops. The interior view of the hall emphasizes the wall mural of General Thomas. He is a remarkable and very modern man. Though he came from Virginia, he had a vision of how great America could be – United – that fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee failed to grasp. Thomas never lost a battle, yet strove to hold down casualties, as Lee did not until the end. Thomas combined the new telegraph with his artillery to make a devastating system of surprises–a little bit like our drones. In his home his picture was turned to the wall, and he burned his official papers, but he should be better known.
My work is done in acrylic and aerosol. My drawings depend upon research and especially the pen and ink work of the little known master W. Taber. It would be fitting if my paintings could be kept together in Aurora. I owe a lot to Martine Stuckey and Carol Hegarty’s mentoring and Jo Fredell Higgin’s enabling, and Lisa Heinz’s everything.
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