Oral Histories

Interview of Mary Heebner

Book artist and owner of simplemente maria press, which produces artists books of Heebner’s work.
Z: Orphan Interviews after 1999
Books and Fine Printing
Biographical Note:
Book artist and owner of simplemente maria press, which produces artists books of Heebner’s work.
Collings, Jane
Heebner, Mary
Persons Present:
Heebner and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Heebner's studio in Santa Barbara, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and principal editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.Collings prepared for the interview by consulting secondary sources, as well as knowledgeable people in the UCLA Library on the topic of artists' books and reviewing Heebner's work housed in UCLA Library Special Collections and mounted on her website.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Heebner was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
12 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Early life; Parents' background; Mother's early employment in the music business; Parents' marriage; Family vacations at the coast in New Jersey; A Rodin watercolor provides an early art influence; Schooling; Vision problems as a child and the impact of this on Heebner's artistic work; Arts education and training; Father's early career as a musician; Father's parents; Father and friend innovate V-Discs; Sister Dorothy's proficiency as a singer; Hears Ella Fitzgerald live as a child; Sister, Lesa, mayor of Solano Beach; Sister, Toni, in real estate; Mother's Italian heritage; Learns about Georgia O'Keeffe from Life magazine; A profound influence in O'Keeffe; An influential friend, Susie O'Neill; Plays the flute in high school; The Dixieland Dads musical group; Adores the Beatles and pop music; Musical explorations; Spends a lot of time with a friend's family; The abundance of friends' parents at school who were in "the business"; Spends a lot of time at Dutton's Books as an adolescent; Heebner gives a signed copy of her On the Blue Shore of Silence to Dutton's Books; Uses her home bedroom as a studio; The political art work of Sister Corita Kent; Kent leaves the order to focus on art work; Kent's influence on Heebner while a teacher at Providence High School; Spends a lot of time in the art room at high school; The Pageant of the Masters production at high school; Produces an early book while in high school; The Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of Immaculate Heart; Exciting environment of high school during the sixties; Social impact of the Vietnam War; Religious education; Broad cultural sources form the basis of Heebner's education; Heebner's first husband; Designs her own clothes in high school; Involvement in campaign to save Watt's Towers; Performs in a jug band; A first job at Universal Studios; More on Heebner's first husband; Influence of archaeology and earth science on Heebner's artwork; Heebner's political interests; Attends University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB);Advantages of a girl's school for high school; Father's interest in classical music; The Vorsetzer; Goes to hear jazz on Wednesdays with father; The Ash Grove; Enjoys the outdoors; Early studies at UCSB; Steers away from formal art classes; Brings artwork into studies of literature and religion; A batik class; Lives in Isla Vista rather than the dorms; Counter-cultural scene in Isla Vista at the time; College of Creative Studies at UCSB; Kenneth Rexroth's class at UCSB; The riots in Isla Vista in 1970.
Finds a mentor in William Dole; Begins college work; Dole's collage work; Interests shared with Dole; Dole's teaching style; Finds a clientele for her work through Dole; The Art Rental Gallery; Representation by art dealer Peggy Walker; Aspects of Heebner's design process; Juggles art work with raising daughter; More on Dole's teaching style; Finds influences for art work in music; Chumash culture in the Santa Barbara area; Significance of Point Concepcion in Chumash culture; The struggle against liquified natural gas (LNG)drilling off the coast of Gaviota; A highly socially engaged lifestyle while working on the LNG struggle and as a graduate student; Chumash influences on Heebner's work; Elements of Heebner's work explore issues of "inside" and "outside"; More on Chumash culture; Makes art within the climate of vigorous social community; Exhibits widely; A job teaching art to grade school kids; Heebner's sense at that time that art plays an important role in society; Daughter, Sienna Craig; A paper-making workshop with Sukey Hughes at the home of Harry and Sandra Reese; How Sukey Hughes began making paper; Methods of making paper; Meets Carolee Campbell at the Reese papermaking workshop; First uses of the handmade paper as inserts; Dole's use of handmade paper; A period of expressive work segues into an interest in using words and making books; A stay on the island of Lambay off the coast of Ireland; Art work done on the island brings Heebner closer to using words with images; A stint in the Hebrides brings new inspiration; A first book uses Robinson Jeffers's poems; An intensive period of work leads to pieces based on the topology of the Outer Hebrides; Makes a gift for husband, which becomes a first book; More on the inspirational trip to the Outer Hebrides; The book based on poems of Robinson Jeffers; Coming to terms with entering a new phase of life, one which would include a great deal of travel.
Heebner's working methods; Old Marks, New Marks; Shapeshifter; Indigo Sketches; Heebner's sculptural approach to book arts; Heebner's press mark; Heebner's press name; Learns clam shell box technique from Sandra Reese; More on Heebner's press name; Production of the Old Marks, New Marks book; The clam shell box for the book; The book's contents; A foreward for the book by Carolyn Radlo; Marija Gimbutas's work on goddess worship in Paleolithic art; Impact of Gimbutas's work on Heebner's thinking; An invitation to visit the Lascaux cave; Heebner's use of prehistoric forms in contemporary pieces; A tour of Getty antiquities with Marion True; The possibilities of the book form; More on Old Marks, New Marks; A vigorous international travel schedule prompts new forms and new work; A trip to Iceland inspires Island: The Journal from Iceland; "Volcanic" paintings inspired by Iceland trip; Printing with Jack Duganne and Nash Editions; A satisfying juxtaposition of ancient inspirations and modern printing techniques; More on inspirational trip to Iceland; The construction of Island; Discovers Dieu Donne paper maker; Letterpress work for the book; Persons credited and materials used as indicated in colophon of Island; Rie Hachiyanagi; Papers used in the book; A plexiglass case to contain the book; Readings from Island; Friendship with Gail Berkus; More readings from Island; Making decisions about book construction; Meets Joshua Heller; Shows at the National Museum of Women and the Arts; The fine sense of concept and design in the Heebner work; Sandra Reese; A community within the book arts; Scratching the Surface; Visits the Lascaux caves; The discovery of the caves in the forties; Preparation to enter the caves; The interior of the Lascaux caves; Readings from Scratching the Surface; More on the interior of the Lascaux caves; The paintings that came from the Lascaux visit; The production of the book Scratching the Surface; Works with Dieu Donne in New York; More on the production of the book; Uses of digital printing; Hand embellishment of digital printing; Opinions in the field regarding digital printing; More on Scratching the Surface; More readings from Scratching the Surface; More on production of Scratching the Surface; The importance of Japanese papermaking for the book arts community
Begins the Western Trilogy book project; Heebner's text describing the Grand Canyon; Learns geology for work on the book; The process of working on the Western Trilogy books; A cruise on the Sea Cloud, Merriweather Post's yacht; Heebner's method of note taking in the field; The torturous process of writing the text for the books; Heebner's gift giving as a form of art practice; Readings from The Desert; The Desert as an accordion form book; Makes boxed set editions of the trilogy; Large scale paintings that relate to the trilogy; Gail Berkus introduces Heebner to John Balkwell; Friction between Heebner's painterly practice and the book arts world; Prejudice against digital printing in the book arts world; Readings from The Prairie; The accordion book as a form that works to display the book form; Heebner's hands-on work process; Required elements of a book for Heebner; Penguin Books; Gutenberg; Penguin; John; Sandra; The book Mountain, Canyon, Dune; The book Prairie Ocean, Desert; Readings on topic of Mt. Shasta; A first connection with UCLA Library Special Collections; Begins to market books; The work process; Typefaces; Heebner's enjoyment of the work process; The meditative nature of the craft of book making; The work on the Iceland book; Recovering costs; Techniques used; Readings from Western Horizon; Enjoyment in exploring the geography and history of the United States; Racism in America; The work process; Effects of climate change on Glacier National Park; Directions in the work; The work of Sacred Geography; Interest in geological time; Tibetan traditions; The Bayon sketches; Inspiration and design of Full Lotus, Sketches from Ayutthaya; Readings from Full Lotus; Gathering materials for a project; The process of collage; Heebner's sculptural impulse; More on the collage process; Gathering materials; Stages an exhibit of place-centered work; A series of shows using the work.
The genesis of A Sacred Geography book project; Sienna Craig's cultural anthropology work in Mustang; Heebner's trip to Mustang; Inspiration for the book; The Bon religion and its demise; More on Heebner's trip to Mustang; Sienna Craig's poetry for the book Sacred Geography; The shape, structure, and design of Sacred Geography; The sonnets in the volume; More on the structure of the book; The letterpress version of the book; More on the trip to Tibet; Buyers of the book; Contributors to show "The Missing Peace" at the Fowler Museum, UCLA; The link between the series of paintings "Mani Wall" and the book; Paintings inspired by a friend, Allegra; The inspiration provided by prayer wheels; More on the show at the Fowler Museum; Difficulties getting the show to travel; The paper for the Sacred Geography book; The chap book for Sacred Geographies; Michael Hannon; Begins a collaboration with poet Michael Hannon; Seeking the Open Heart; Production considerations in Seeking the Open Heart; Digital printing and the definition of the artist's book; More on the production of Seeking the Open Heart; Seeking the Open Heart as a very personal project; More on the production considerations for the book; A collaboration with Clayton Eshelman on Deep Thermal; The production process of Deep Thermal; Reactions to the book; More on the collaboration with Clayton Eshelman; The dynamic of collaborations with writers; The lead up to making the Hamlet book; The production of the Hamlet book; A description of the Hamlet book.
Making On the Blue Shore of Silence; Pablo Neruda's house in East La Negra; The background of making On the Blue Shore of Silence; Alastair Reed; More on the background of making On the Blue Shore of Silence; More on Alastair Reed; More on making the book; Appreciation of Neruda in Chile; Participation in the Chile Poesia event; The structure of the book; The U.S. ambassador to Chile's residence; Rosare Bru's memories of Neruda; More on the Chile Poesia event; The Chileans' love of poetry; More on the Chile Poesia event; Efforts to print the book as a trade publication; Exhibitions of the Neruda-inspired work in Santa Barbara; Antonio Skarmeta; An event at Lincoln Center honoring Neruda; More on the trade book; A book that addresses Neruda's love poems, Intimacies; The origin of the title On the Blue Shore of Silence; Intimacies; A show at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute; The effect of the 2008 economic crash on Heebner's efforts to sell the Neruda trade books; The sales numbers for the trade copies of Blue Shore and Intimacies; Macduff's book on the project to save the forest in Tierra del Fuego;John O'Leary's legacy; Patricia O'Leary's tragic early death.
Antonio Skarmeta; A trip to Patagonia; A history of tourism and exploration in Patagonia; Lady Florence Dixie; Inspiration in Patagonia for Unearthed; Text for Unearthed; The work on the Unearthed project as a whole; The box for the Unearthed project; The form of the Unearthed book project; Text for Unearthed; The Unearthed design; Exhibitions of the Patagonia material; The Book of Santa Barbara; Patagonia la Ultima Esperanza; A trip to the fjords of Patagonia; Themes in Heebner's work; Influences on Heebner's thinking; Travels to Angkor; Inspiration for Silent Faces, Angkor; Making Silent Faces, Angkor; Exhibitions of the Silent Faces material; More on making Silent Faces; Making scrolls; The forms for the Silent Faces, Angkor book projects; Learns the history of the Angkor Wat site; Making the paper for Silent Faces, Angkor; The box for Silent Faces, Angkor; The scrolls for the project; The cover of the book; More on making the scrolls; The text for the book; More on the form and structure of the book; Text for Silent Faces, Angkor; Making art from trash; Readings from the book on the topic of faces; Problems with the Apsara book; Hand-painted covers; Recurrent themes and motifs throughout the book; The Churning of the Sea of Milk; Central themes in Heebner's work.