ArtHop spotlight: At 95, Heather Anderson continues a lifetime of love for the outdoors in new Fig Tree show

At 95, Heather Anderson has spent her life painting what she loves: Nature.

Pictured above: Heather Anderson’s ‘Mount Langley’ is part of the artist’s new show at Fig Tree Gallery.

Known for her bold brushstrokes and use of vibrant — often psychedelic — colors, the Fresno artist’s body of work is a testament to the incomparable beauty of the Sierra Nevada and other views of the “outdoors.” (Which, when you come to think of it, were the only views until relatively recently, when humans came along and ended up shutting themselves indoors much of the time.) As an arts educator and environmental activist, Anderson has worked to draw attention to the landscapes that so many of us take for granted.

Now, in what she says is likely her last show, Anderson once again takes over the walls of Fig Tree Gallery in an exhibition that runs Thursday, Oct. 7, through Oct. 31. The show opens as part of ArtHop, the monthly open house of studios and galleries in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods. For an updated list of venues and shows, you can view the Fresno Arts Council’s email blast (Google account required) or go to the Fresno Arts Council website.

By the way: Anderson shares the Fig Tree space this month with artist Evany Zirul, whose figurative, wire-hanger sculptures will offer an intriguing, monochromatic contrast to Anderson’s eye-popping colors. You can watch a 17-minute video of a studio visit I made with Joyce Aiken about Zirul’s art here.

I was able to interview Anderson about her new show by email with the help of Jeri Stubblefield, her geriatric care manager. (Many thanks, Jeri.) Here’s our discussion:


Q: Your parents named you Florence, after your mother. How did you become Heather?

A: I never liked that name (Florence) and I decided to change it when I was a young adult. And yes, I chose the name, a flower, since it was part of the natural environment. I grew up loving nature and spent much time enjoying working in my mother’s garden. That later led me to join the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, where I mentored young people about nature. My parents must have recognized my love of nature when I insisted on going to college and getting a degree in art and education.

Q: What is your first memory of being entranced with mountains and open spaces?

A: My backyard was my first exposure to the outdoors, climbing trees and doing things that girls typically did not do. I grew up in a Pasadena neighborhood and enjoyed looking at the San Gabriel Mountains, which I could see from my bedroom window. So, from a very young age I believe I was being drawn to nature. found those mountains inspiring and began sketching. So, it was not arbitrary to focus on and study art education and the natural world. Although I never thought of myself as particularly talented, I found you could actually learn the skill. That is what drew me to become an art teacher.

Heather Anderson

Q: You began making sketches of the Sierra Nevada on your very first trip to the mountains, a honeymoon, in 1950. What do you remember about that trip?

A: My husband was an outdoor type, so it seemed natural to go to the mountains for our first trip. I don’t remember too many details, except that I had already graduated from Berkeley with a degree in art, studying art history and the natural environment and loved that we could spend time in such a beautiful place. I do remember that I did a lot of sketching while we were there.

Q: I interviewed you in 2014, and I have to smile because you told me then that your show that year would probably be your last. Now it’s seven years later! Tell me about this current show at Fig Tree Gallery. Why did you want to hold it?

A: Because I am an artist, and that’s what artists do! I have kept up my membership at the Gallery and as a participant I feel that I should have periodic shows, so I thought why not? I also have a roomful of pieces that I would love to sell.

Q: Are you still painting, or all the paintings in the show from earlier years?

A: My easel is still set up in my apartment and I do paint occasionally. But most of my pieces are from previous shows.

Q: You were interested in the environment long before it became common to worry about global warming. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

A: I continue to work with the Sierra Club and other groups to do what little I can to educate others about the importance of protecting our natural environment. We have so much to do but we are not doing enough right now. So, I am somewhat pessimistic about our environmental future. But I am very grateful for the environmental groups and the educational system who are continuing to bring increasing awareness of the important issues affecting our environment.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your career, your beloved Sierra Nevada, or your show?

A: I spent my life doing something I loved: traveling to places of beauty, painting landscapes from my own perspective, educating young people about art and our natural environment, and advocating to protect that environment. My art is one way for me to relive my past experiences. This exhibit is a way for me to share those experiences with others.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (3)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thank you, Donald. Cannot attend ArtHop this month, but will make it a point to see this show, and hopefully have opportunity to see Heather. A fine artist and wonderful person

  • Thank you for this piece. I just recently purchased to of her pieces during a silent auction at a Fresno Art Museum fund raising event, and am ecstatic with them, and their beauty.

    Her art provides me, hope that wild place remain. One of mine is from the Sierra Nevadas, and one is from the Himalayas. Two place I am drawn to.

  • Moe Anderson

    Thank you for this write up on Heather! She is a wonderful artist and an inspiration to us all!


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