– Spring/Summer 2002

Love Action: Mary Heilmann and the Joy of Painting

Terry R. Myers

Tags: Mary Heilmann

Our whole being is as much the one as the other: the unconscious and the conscious, the immutable and the mutable, emerging and changing form through their reciprocal action.

This action contains all the misery and all the happiness of life: misery is caused by continual separation, happiness by perpetual rebirth of the changeable. The immutable is beyond all misery and all happiness: it is equilibrium.

- Piet Mondrian1

Joy forces you to look out and make connections so that there's the possibility of collective engagement, whereas pleasure, under commodified conditions, tends to be inward. You take it with you, and it is a highly individuated unit... Joy tries to get at those non-market values - love, care, kindness, service, solidarity, the struggle for justice - values that provide the possibility of bringing people together. So, when Anita Baker sings, 'you bring me joy', rather than, 'you bring me pleasure' I think that's what she has in mind.

- Cornell West2

I love your love action
Lust's just a distraction
No talking, just looking
Watching your love action

- The Human League3

Everything about the way Mary Heilmann's paintings are painted makes it easy to believe that the paintings themselves - not to mention their maker - love action: not only their own, but all kinds of action elsewhere. Every geometric form, grid, blob, etc. in, or on, or of them is literally infused with the movements that got the paint itself down on the surface (think of 'down' not in the sense of a final resting place, but in the disco 'get down' way, or even better, in the 'I'm down with that' way), showing us where it