Childhood Dream: Photography Is In Artist's Soul

PAYSON ARTS

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Bernadette Heath wanted to be a photographer from the time she was a child growing up in Minnesota.

"Art is my soul," she said.

"I had my first opening in downtown St. Paul at this great art gallery and my mom and dad didn't even come," she said.

"They didn't understand. My mom is still scratching her head."

Still, it was her father who presented her with a Pony 135 camera at age 16.

Priced at $50, it was an expensive camera.

"I was a tomboy," she said. " (I) was my dad's huntin' dog and his pal when we went fishin' in the canoe. So that's the kind of photographer I ended up being."

Heath and her boyfriend Bill (now her husband of 50 years) joined the local photography club and spent their dates shooting pictures of the great outdoors.

Bill and Bernadette could not afford photography as a hobby when they got married. Bernadette substituted painting, drawing, pottery, sculpture and making woodcut prints for her first creative love.

Then, at age 45, she returned the University of Minnesota and obtained her art degree.

"I went to college with my youngest daughter," Heath said.

Five years later, "pure persistence" got Heath onto the pages of Arizona Highways magazine.

"I had to change the way I saw things," she said. "I was entering into a man's media. They didn't have a woman on staff."

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This work is a 12-inch-square hanging piece done in diachronic and irid glass.

She has collaborated with writer Jan Farnsworth on more than 30 stories for Highways alone.

They have collaborated on books and been published by AAA and the National Wildlife Federation.

Even though Heath invested in a digital camera a year ago, she must still shoot hard film because Arizona Highways requires it.

"I really believe that you are born with the tendencies for whatever it is that you end up with in the arts," Heath said. "I believe that I was born with the vision, with the sensitivity to the light a photographer needs.

A keen sense of adventure is another of Heath's character traits.

Her wilderness assignments have included up close and personal encounters with momma bear and cubs and a canoe smashed into the rocks by white water on the Gila River and a ride from Globe to Payson in a horse-drawn refurbished stagecoach drawn by horses.

Laugh lines crinkle around her eyes when she speaks.

"I don't watch TV or read newspapers because I try to stay as positive as I can," she said. "In order to create I have to be positive and if I don't create I find I am in trouble -- I'm volunteering for this and getting involved in that ..."

When the bottom fell out of the tourism market after Sept. 11, 2001 and there was no market for scenic travel photography, Heath discovered fused glass.

When the market came back, she refused to give up her new means of expression.

"Fused glass is a lot like photography because you are still playing with light," she said.

Wire, different colored papers, clay and paint infuse her glass art.

"I paint on the glass, then when I fire the piece, the paint sinks into the glass," she said.

Just as Heath enjoys the abstract art qualities found in fused glass, she is now able to take that abstraction to the next level in her photography.

Photoshop allows her to manipulate a realistic piece into a new art form.

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This beautiful image is Grapevine Creek interior at the east end of Grand Canyon Park.

Knowing where to curve a photo, which in turns bends the color and the light, takes an artistic eye and "inverting" changes everything.

For instance, when Heath inverted a photo of petroglyphs used in her book "Rock Art Along the Way" a crack in the rock revealed itself as neon blue lightening.

"The potential of Photoshop is just phenomenal," Heath said.

RESUME

Name: Bernadette Heath

Mediums: Photography and fused glass wall art, dishes and jewelry

Advice to beginning artists: Believe in yourself and check your attitude.

Motto: Attitude is everything.

Achievement most proud of: I am excited about my books and hope to do at least one more book with each of the publishers that I presently work with.

Books: "Grand Canyon Impressions"

"Arizona Impressions" by Heath and James Randklev

"Rock Art Along the Way" by Heath and Janet Farnsworth

Why Star Valley? My husband Bill and I moved here three-and-a-half years ago. We were living in Queen Creek and it was so built up I couldn't breathe; I couldn't create; I felt like my soul was dying.

Upcoming project: Learning the incredible changes that can be made to a photograph using Adobe Photoshop. "I'm just having so much fun!"

Fave music: I like anything from classical to country, but music by Brulé, a Lakota Native American is a current favorite.

Hobby: Puzzles. The way I look at it is we have to be open to surprises. Each piece of the puzzle is a small element that comes together like one minute, one hour, one day of life.

Points of contact: www.bernadetteheath.com, The Wild Brush in Payson, Myra's Gallery in Pine, and The Bookstore and More (books).

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