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Hedy’s artful life

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Hedy’s artful life

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THE WIND CHIMES sang sweetly as the Monday morning breeze played gently with them. There were Buddhas everywhere and the music seemed to put a smile on their faces.

Birds joined in, lending their chirping to create another type of music as butterflies dipped and landed on the many colourful flowering plants. Neatly cut grass on the expansive backyard garden, tall palm trees casting shadows over the garden and the sun’s reflection off the one-lap pool was a picturesque award-winning photograph.

This is what Hedy Klineman wakes up to every morning. It is good inspiration for her to work. You see, Hedy is an artist who has been living in Barbados for the past 15 years.

She currently has 44 pieces hung in the gallery at Speightstown until the end of this month.

Born in Germany to Polish parents, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, when she was three years old. In high school, art at that time was an imposing figure.

“My teachers in that period saw it as important. They encouraged my drawings and would hang them in classes and even gave me after-school tutoring to help me improve my brush strokes and so on.

“We went on field trips to all the museums and my eyes couldn’t take in all the sculptures, and African art and Buddhas.

She got into Cooper Union, an art college, with a scholarship, riding the subway each day. She would be urged to play with shapes and proportions and colours and textures. In the 1960s abstract expression art-form was encouraged, and Hedy excelled.

 Her parents, though supportive, emphasised the need to find real work. Hedy had some knowledge of work as her aunt owned a small knitting factory that made sweaters and she would help out after high school.

Her first real job was at a textile company as a receptionist. One day she convinced them to let her go into the textile room to help design. She worked at a fashion house and various other places . . . all surprisingly had some form or fashion to do with being creative.

Hedy went to a party one day and met Andy Warhol. She ended up hanging out with him at his studio and they talked art. She wanted to paint him and he refused. 

“Back in the 1980s the East Village had just started to open up and art galleries and studios were everywhere. Andy used to take pictures for the magazine Interview but he was very reclusive. I was into fashion portraits. I used my clothes and accessories glue them onto the canvas and painting over them.

“I had a show for it, my first one. Jean Michel Basquait came, Andy came. Afterwards, he gave me a pair of glasses he had been wearing for over a decade and I made a painting out of it. People started me giving me stuff after to make portraits.”

Hedy has travelled to India and Japan, all through Europe. She has a house in the Hamptons and her two sons live in California.

“Once they went to California, I couldn’t get them back to New York.”

These travels have influenced her work.

“Everywhere I go I am inspired. Most of it is the energy around me. My garden in Barbados inspires me as I wake up every day to beauty.

She has used flora and fauna in her work. Trees and bushes are not left out.

“You can see some [of previous work] that I call fantasy flora. They are fantasy but you can identify them.”

Hedy is old school. She always starts with a blank canvas and uses charcoal to outline the figure and then begins to build.

In Barbados Hedy has a studio built on her property, Here she spends every day creating beautiful works of art.

“I spend six months a year here. My work is created not from photographs but from inspiration. I am inspired spiritually and emotionally.”

Some paintings take weeks. Some she starts and doesn’t finish until her return six months later.

“When I have a block, I start a painting before I leave and then I don’t finish it. Then I come back here and then I take out the unfinished one and immediately it gets me into my work.

“I like this process.”

It is a funny story how she ended up in Barbados as Hedy recollected.

Her husband Ken, a lawyer, had some business in the Caribbean on an unmentioned island in the early 1980s. He was not feeling it and went to the airport and said, “I need to go to another island on the next flight. Anywhere. It doesn’t matter.”

The next flight was to Barbados. He stayed for three days at Sandy Lane Hotel. He called Hedy and told her how amazing the place was.

Hedy and Ken made it their next vacation spot, with their kids. They bought a house in two weeks’ time on the West Coast. For the next ten years they would be back and forth.

“The kids got older and wanted to go skiing and wanted different adventures. We decided to sell the house and travel with our kids.”

But Hedy was missing Barbados. When the kids went off to college Hedy and Ken came back to Barbados for two weeks.

On their last day here they bought the current property in Sandy Lane.

They did little renovations to the property, added the pool and built the studio, gatehouse and garden.

Hedy likes to explore the island and swim at the beach every day: “It heals me.”

Speaking about healing, the buddhas are prominent in her work. Yoga helped her to meditate and her consciousness started to be filled with spirituality and she explored historical events.

In some of her work she has put African masks on subjects, with their permission, and then she paints them.

“I am all about the past and the present. History and culture is so important and how the past influences the present.  It is about who are beyond the physical. And Buddha’s philosophy is all about that.”

Hedy says she is not a lady who lunches and she likes all sorts of music – from Erykah Badu to soca music.

Hedy likes to work with every medium and has painted huge pieces that go wall to wall. She has pieces in storage and pieces she has started and not finished – pieces in her imagination that she will paint while she is New York for the next six months.

“I am in my studio every day. It is my job. It is my work. It is my life.”