Painting a lasting impression

March 13, 2003, midnight | By Alex Piazza | 17 years, 10 months ago

Entertainer of the Month: 'Local prodigy' reveals her passion at solo art show

Her philosophy is simple—"I don't like perfection," she says—but after one look through senior Heather Dwyer's 25 works of self-portraits, models and landscapes shown at her first solo art show, held Feb 22 and 23 at the Yellow Barn Gallery in Glen Echo, it seems hard to describe her paintings without using the word "perfect."

What her philosophy means, Dwyer explains, is that she doesn't like painting with excess detail. In some of her model paintings, for example, Dwyer uses only a few colors to represent the entire spectrum of color on a person's face. Dwyer exhibited this unique style at her show, entitled "Through the Looking Glass," underscoring her gift for always painting the bigger picture.

The show—which the Washington Times previewed, calling Dwyer a "local prodigy"—was a "huge success," says Dwyer. She sold 11 of her 25 paintings shown, bringing in about $3,000. Because of the attention the Yellow Barn exhibition brought, Dwyer hopes the show will act as a stepping-stone to bigger things to come.

Dwyer's painting career started in the summer of 1999 after a friend suggested she take her first art class at Yellow Barn, which holds a variety of classes focused on painting and drawing. Since then, Dwyer has fallen in love with the art program primarily because of the guidance that Yellow Barn's founder and resident teacher, Walter Bartman, has provided.

"He always knows what works when," she explains. "Plus, he's not afraid to tell you when you're not reaching your potential."

Bartman, who taught at Whitman High School for 30 years before founding Yellow Barn in 1994, is nationally known for his dedication to art education; he has been recognized by both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. Also, the Montgomery County Council proclaimed April 7, 1998, "Walter Bartman Day." Over Bartman's career, he has taught 10,000 students, he estimates, and he says Dwyer stands out as a powerful artistic voice. "There's no doubt that she's one of the finest students that I've ever taught at Yellow Barn," Bartman says.

Yellow Barn hasn't been the only contributor to Dwyer's progress. Dwyer's mother, Nina Chung Dwyer, teaches painting courses at George Washington University, and Dwyer feels her mother's input has helped her to grow as an artist. "My mom always points me in the right direction," she says.

Whether or not Dwyer knows it, she has been not only receiving lessons but also giving them. Senior Christine Wang, another Yellow Barn student, says they work side by side to learn from one another, and Wang can't help but admire Dwyer's painting style. "She takes a shape and fills it in with one color, so her paintings look like jigsaw puzzles," Wang explains. "It all fits together really nicely."

For Dwyer, a Magnet student, art has always been a much-needed change of pace from school. "It's just a real nice way to deal with something that doesn't involve numbers," she says.

Dwyer is not sure whether she will be an art major, but she knows she wants to continue painting. Those who have seen her work, such as Bartman, know that if she does pursue art after high school, "she'll definitely make an impact."

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Alex Piazza. Alex Piazza is a junior page editor for Silver Chips, one of the better newspapers of the world. While participating in the CAP program, he also plays for the varsity soccer team and plays in an out-of-school band, playing an eclectic mix of styles. Alex … More »

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