Heidi Bakk is an artist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in art at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She previously received her Associate of Fine Arts in art degree from Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN. Her work mainly focuses on the human figure and cultural expectations on those bodies, which integrate her passions for art and challenging body norms. Bakk has been a part of the Student Exhibition at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN in 2019 and has an upcoming show in 2021, Emerge, also at Normandale. Also, in 2021, she participated in a virtual exhibition at the University of MN titled Primavera. She received an Award of Excellence for a painting in the Student Exhibition, as well as the Bryant Family Scholarship, both at Normandale. Bakk primarily works with oil paint and enjoys being a part of the full development of her pieces from creating the canvases to finishing each piece with a unique frame.
I am captivated by the human form and how it exists within its environment. Whether through artificial manipulation or simply pinching skin folds in front of a mirror, I am interested in breaking down the pressure to conform. Within my practice, I provide an opportunity to challenge initial judgements of the human form.
I primarily work with oil paint and manipulate the brushstrokes to viscerally show the curves and dents of each figure. The contradiction of painting a three-dimensional figure on a two-dimensional plane offers me the ability to speak to the complexities of humans. Realistic colors often show up in my pieces as I attempt to further step away from the heavily filtered internet life that permeates our every day. I use the canvas to explore space and movement throughout the composition, and often work in a series format. Recently, I’ve begun to use my own body as the subject matter, and I frequently crop each composition at abrupt points to enhance a message of uneasiness.
While body dissatisfaction is long-standing, acknowledging these discomforts in becoming a new norm. Jenny Saville is one artist whose work intimately inspires my own. I viscerally react to her layering of paint, which often challenges my own internalized judgements towards her subject matter. Being challenged in my original perceptions is a concept that I hope to evoke through my paintings. Bodies normally seen as flawed and less-than are given the spotlight in her art and I hope to provide a similar experience for my viewers.
Mental health, body image, and cultural pressure are all themes that I consider given my personal experiences and the pervasiveness within society. The human form, in all its diversity, continues to inspire me both technically in my artistic practice and throughout my own personal growth and development.
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
When I think about the word “gaze”, I immediately am prompted to consider the experiences of womxn and non-binary individuals when impacted by the male-gaze. My body, filled with curves and dents, is simply a body and not to be sexualized by others. Yet, we live in a world where the preferences of men are prioritized over the experiences of womxn. I grew up believing that my body was too sexual and curvy, and that I took up too much space as a woman. I was taught in fundamentalist Christianity that my body would cause men to stumble, yet was never taught the beautiful intricacies that make up my own figure. In my current art practice, I paint up-close and personal self portraits of my nude body. Since being implicitly taught that my body was solely for men, I use these paintings to reclaim what always has, and always will, belong to me.
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