The Poetry of Mushrooms
I study mushrooms in a most unscientific way. While there are more than 10,000 known species in North America, I couldn’t name more than one or two of those I’ve unearthed. I have read that some toadstools glow in the dark while others are infamously hallucinogenic, but I don’t know why or how. Instead, I’m captivated by the toadstool’s infinitely varied beauty. Oblivious to the sky or horizon, I walk familiar country lanes head bent to the world at my feet. Seemingly overnight, new fungi sprout from the leaf litter like bouquets from a secret admirer. The language of love is often spoken through flowers, but the elegant and fabled toadstool speaks louder to me.
The mushrooms I collect come mostly from my yard or neighboring woods, as much a part of my home as the possessions in my house. The shapes and colors of toadstools remind me of my stash of inherited treasures: faded thread from Nana’s sewing basket, Great Aunt Adelaide’s teapot, or my mother’s linen tablecloth. I combine these artifacts with backdrops crafted from the pages of hand-me-down books or scraps of old fabric. The tiny vignettes portray my mushrooms in domestic scenes meant to tell stories of a real or imagined past. Each portrait is a prayer, a spell I cast in search of feelings remembered or wished for.
Jackie Heitchue’s nomadic childhood spanned the country, from the suburbs of Los Angeles to Ohio and Virginia. Finally settling in New England with her husband and children, the move felt like a homecoming, a sentiment borne out by a family lineage of Puritans, indentured servants, and an unfortunate Salem witch. Ruminating over these historic connections while engrossed in the daily minutia of child-rearing, Jackie became fascinated with the universal themes of family and motherhood that connect one generation to the next. Whether photographing her children as they grew up, or creating her most recent still lifes and self-portraits, her work is both deeply personal and allegorical.
Heitchue has worked as a photographer most of her life. After graduating with a BFA from the Corcoran School of Art, she was an award-winning photojournalist for a chain of newspapers in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. From there, she worked as a freelancer, a printer at the Library of Congress, and taught photography to high school students. Her current work has shown in galleries in New England, including a solo show at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Farther afield, her work was selected for publication and exhibition in the Portfolio showcase at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado. She has also shown at the Southeast Center for Photography in South Carolina and the Candela Gallery in Virginia.
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