Nashville Visual Artists-Heidi Martin Kuster

Heidi Kuster has lived and made art all over the world. She has been in Nashville for the past two years and creates abstract paintings that have colorscapes that are sometimes reminiscent of the Mediterranean, and then at other times dry and earthy like the desert.

I got to spend some time with her in the studio watching her work. She also took me to an exhibition she is having now in the Tibbot Gallery of the University School of Nashville. It's a beautiful show and I suggest you see it!

My work is about memory and how we hold onto it, along with how we respond historically to instants in time. It might be one of the earth's memories, frozen in the surface of stone, or one of my personal memories in which I have experienced the natural forces of nature-usually near water, or on rock. A stone in the palm of my hand is a reminder of a specific place and time, a space that holds an event worth considering more carefully. Marks on rocks and stone are evidence of and event in earth's history. To me they are a perfect way to examine the earth's recollections. My process consists of drawing directly from my subject. I then paint, usually with many layers. Right now I am doing a lot of collage work, in which I deconstruct (cut up) paintings I have done on paper. For me it is like taking apart an experience and putting it back together with a new sense of direction. So I guess you could say I definitely start with form and content and then move on to create a structure that defines my process. When I use plastic in my work, it is as a direct metaphor for our human impact on the earth's evolution.

What inspires your work?

I am inspired by traveling, and being in nature where I can find interesting surfaces and stones. Many of my favorite experiences have come from the beaches of Costa Brava in Spain, Normandy in France, and The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I am also inspired by other artists and their processes. Per Kirkeby, the Danish painter and poet talks about "building art on the ruins of your ideas". He works with geological sites, and his paintings and words are a "go to" inspiration for me. Another artist, Diana Cohen, who I met in Barcelona, after we had both shown work with Elizabeth Budia Gallery, sparked me to think more about the relevance of my work to environmental issues. She has used plastic in her work for years, and has become a serious environmental activist for public awareness about plastic. I am also inspired by listening to story telling, usually as podcasts. I love Moth Radio, I guess in a way it is another form of holding onto, and learning from a memory. 

What are the goals for your work?

My goals for my work are to remain consistent with form and content, and continually create new structures. I want to keep refining my style and expression with my medium. I want to push my ideas, and be open to directions that keep my work relevant to how we are responding to contemporary issues of environmentalism, and how we are living with the earth. I look forward to exploring more community based projects in the next years. Having been back in the States, for a bit over a year, I’d like to find gallery representation here.

What are your thoughts on the Nashville Arts Scene?

I think Nashville has been a really great city to live in after having lived in Europe for so long. It’s a welcoming city and just the right size. Having space here at Ground Floor Gallery + Studios has helped me be in touch with the Wedgewood-Houston part of town and see how much this city and the art scene is evolving. I think Nashville is on the cusp of being a more art-focused city. I think that will also have to do with the eventuality of more collectors realizing that they can buy great art here and not have to travel to bigger cities like LA or New York.

To learn more about Heidi's work visit: