Interview w/ David Heatley • Artist

SM: Up to this point, what has time done to you?

DH: Time has made me humble and hopefully a little wiser. It’s definitely improved my artwork.

SM: What’s the best trick you have up your sleeve?

DH: I work incredibly hard, but also have amazing resources to help me. My wife Rebecca is a constant well of love, strength, and inspiration and a good reality-checker for me. My mom is wise and has an uncanny ability to talk people through their doubts and fears about work. She is literally always there whenever I need her. My father is a brilliant, funny, and quirky man with his own brand of wisdom. My brothers understand me and what shaped me best because they lived it too. My best friend Jacob is like a brother because we grew up on the same block and had eerily similar fathers. We talk about the most painful subjects with each other, but always manage to laugh about it. I guess this is turning into a shoutout to my family and friends. Peace to my grandparents holding it down in the Bronx. And my little baby girl Maya. One love.

SM: When was the last time you were down on your luck?

DH: I have pretty amazing luck. But I think luck comes to you when you have a clear idea of what you want, work incredibly hard to get it, and tend to any distracting spiritual / emotional needs. Whenever I’m pursuing something in a vague way, or if I’m clouded by inner turmoil, my luck runs out quickly. To give a somewhat trivial example, Rebecca and I drove up to New Hampshire with our 3-month-old daughter Maya a few weeks ago. It was very ambitious – the longest we’d ever driven anywhere with her. The ride up was flawless. The ride home was painful.
I was distracted and preoccupied about something I had to do when we got home and felt very conflicted about it. Anyway, we got lost 2 times – driving a half hour in the wrong direction and Maya woke up and screamed – a horrible blood-curdling scream that’s like a knife in both of our hearts. I felt cursed. We finally got turned around and had an impromptu therapy session with me venting about what I was worried about. As if by magic, the situation righted itself.

SM: What’s the last really smooth thing you’ve done?

DH: I showed up to meet my wife and her friend. Maya had been crying a lot that day. As soon as I held her, she stopped crying and fell asleep in my arms for the whole subway trip home. I felt like a real dad.

SM: When was the last time you had to take an unexpected walk?

DH: Just a few days ago. I was having a really hard time staying positive and focused, following the nightmarish election results. That was coupled with stressing about money. I had to get out of the house and think, so I drove to Forest Park in Queens and walked around for 2 hours to clear my head. I purposely tried to get lost, and did, but found my way back out. It’s kind of a dumpy park in some areas, but if you go deep into some of the trails, it feels remote and quiet and peaceful. It did the trick.

SM: In the middle of the interview, we like to request an anecdote.

DH: The only thing I can think of is a funeral I went to a couple of months ago. It was for someone with whom I had briefly lived in college and played in a band, but had long since lost touch. The truth was I never liked him all that much. I went to the funeral to comfort a close friend of mine who was his x-girlfriend (whom he treated terribly). He was the kind of person who was always hesitant and agonizing over his decisions. Always second-guessing himself. But I learned at the funeral that he’d recently taken up surfing. He’d wake up before dawn and drive to Long Island and surf for a few hours with friends before work. He was invited to Costa Rica to surf and take pictures with other photographer friends of his. Apparently, he decided to go last minute. He arrived safely and spent a day and a night there and called his mom the following morning. The group headed out to another destination. After passing a tight turn in a terrible storm, while trying to cross a treacherous bridge with no guard rail, the car plunged into the water and he died on impact. His most recent girlfriend went to his apartment to go through and pack up his things and found the A/C and fans still blowing, his clothes thrown everwhere – evidence of a perfectly spontaneous act. I was really touched by all of this and felt like I had genuinely missed out on being his friend. I had a deep sense of remorse at having written him off as not worth knowing.

SM: What do you seek out to remedy melancholy?

DH: I do the I Ching pretty regularly and follow its counsel seriously. I meditate once in a while and pray pretty often. I try to get to a place in me that feels detached from the future – longing for some outcome. It’s usually then that I can feel hopeful.

SM: What aspect of your work are you proudest of?

DH: Most of the time I feel pretty happy with my work. I’m very demanding of myself and am constantly trying to improve, but I try to temper it with a forgiving attitude and an acceptance of where I’m at. Occasionally, I’ll feel complete disgust and I know that’s when I need a break from it for a while. I think I’m most proud of my ideas. I don’t think I’ll ever be an incredible draftsman or inker or painter.
But I feel confident that my ideas come through clearly in everything I work on.

SM: How do you plan on celebrating your 100th birthday?

DH: With Rebecca, my kid(s), other family, and friends. I’d love to be surrounded by people who want to hear my stories. And I hope to have gained some real, lasting wisdom by then. Hopefully, I’ll still be making art in some way.

SM: Please compose a brief poem or haiku on the subject of your choosing.

DH: I don’t think I’ve written a poem since 11th grade, but I sometimes write songs. This is a sort-of recent one, co-written with my genius friend Jeremy Broomfield:

Dancing ants surround a blur
Occurring in a vast expanse of squares
Navigate the graduated stairs
Maze of grays, so saturated, pure

Select, Modify, Expand
Select, Modify, Expand
Select, Modify, Expand
Select, Modify, Expand

Selections are encircling the world
Chinese Skybots ‘sploding gracefully
Nothing left, no animal or tree
I think we better get ready for some big-time confrontation that will
blow us all out of here, girl.

Select, Modify, Expand
Select, Modify, Expand
Select, Modify, Japan
Select, Modify, Japan


Actually you can hear it here (in its unfinished form):