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Checking In: Daniel Heidkamp’s Painting By the Sea

The American painter Daniel Heidkamp is typically based in New York, working on new creations from his Brooklyn studio. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s spending time Massachusetts, painting to a much more calm view of the sea.

In isolation, Heidkamp shared with Whitewall a few paintings he’s working on now, which revisit a more naturalism approach, and how he’s still staying inspired by New York City’s cool factor from afar. 

WHITEWALL: How are you doing? 

DANIEL HEIDKAMP: I’m doing okay. In late March, I slipped out of NYC for a while and traveled up to Manchester-by-the Sea, MA with my wife and two sons. Happily, there is a place for me to paint here so I’ve been trying to keep my flow, painting every day.

WW: What are you listening to?

DH: I’ve been staying connected to the sounds of NYC, modulating between WFMU, WNYC, and WQXR—all the radio stations I get from by studio boom box, but here I listen on the Bluetooth.  

WW: Reading?

DH: I’m reading Dore Ashton‘s wonderful biography of 19th century painter Rosa Bonhuer.

WW: What are you cooking?

DH: This area is known for great seafood. One of the fish markets in Gloucester set up a food truck where you can get the daily catch for curbside pickup, so we’ve been grilling a lot of haddock and scallops.

WW: How are you staying connected? 

DH: I definitely miss going to shows and openings in NYC, but I’m still very connected to my gallery teams at Loyal and Half. There’s been a steady stream of art fairs using online platforms and more opportunities to donate works, so it has actually been a busy time in the studio.

With my practice, I’m used to spending long hours in solitude as I paint, so in that sense, I’m sort of well-equipped for the shelter-in-place thing. And I see my kids more now. We eat lunch together.

WW: How are you staying creative?

DH: This area, Cape Ann, has played an elaborate role in American art history. It is made up of a group of seaside towns and picturesque fishing villages. It’s been a beacon for artists over the centuries. Winslow Homer painted here, as well as Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley, and Milton Avery. Even some of the abstract painters, like Rothko, were drawn here by the unique scenery and light.

I grew up not far from here. I used to go to the beaches around here as a child and have painted here many times over the years. Usually, I’m only in this area for short periods of time. I’m now using this extended stay to watch the scene change from winter to spring, and now summer, and returning to more of a naturalism in my work—more of the “en plein air” vibe that this region is known for.

WW: Are you able to make work at this time? 

DH: Yes, I feel fortunate that I have the structure around me to continue to make work—even in this very crazy and often depressing time.

WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?

DH: I’m inspired by the people on the front lines, the medical people, and also the folks keeping the essential stores open and delivering food. At the end of April, I drove back to NYC for a solid week in order to attend to some things in my actual studio.

At first, it was difficult to adjust to the mood, especially around distancing and masks, and some of my favorite food spots being shut down. But the spring flowers were still blooming, and driving through Bushwick, I saw all the graffiti, fashion, and funky haircuts peeking out from under masks. Even despite all the weirdness, I still felt that energy. New York City is cool.






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