The Opposite Of Nostalgia
Local artist Heather Jones in front of her work titled “And the Healing Wasn’t Pretty;” courtesy of Jones

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As a child, Heather Jones was always doodling her thoughts. When her anxiety would creep up, pen and paper felt like a safe space, a way to sort out the emotions and experiences that otherwise were too much for her to handle. 

Jones would start with a single line and let it flow uninterrupted on paper, napkins, or anything else she could get her hands on until it felt like she’d made sense of the feelings she was struggling with. 

“Drawing and painting are therapeutic to me because it’s almost robotic. I can turn off my mind and just let things happen,” says Jones, 35, who’s dealt with depression and anxiety throughout her life. 

For a long time, the self-taught artist and attorney from Richmond, who now lives in Adams Morgan, mostly described the tedious but freeing task of creating art as a “lifesaver”—an essential tool to support her mental health. It wasn’t until five years ago that Jones recognized her coping mechanism was also an actual talent worthy of being shared with others. 

“It definitely took encouragement from the people close to me,” says Jones. She began posting her work via a public Instagram account, which led to the opportunity to showcase 12 of her colorful acrylic, one-line canvas paintings at Homme Gallery’s L Street NW location, currently on view through March 10. 

With her first solo exhibition, The Opposite of Nostalgia, Jones reshapes negative memories from her past. She pulls from memories that make her anxious, allowing the emotion to direct her work, choosing shapes and colors that eventually lead her toward healing by literally reshaping negative experiences from her past. In the end, the positive association with her creative process reforms the memory for Jones when she goes back to the finished product and the process it took to create it. 

“My paintings are always tied to thoughts that go on in my mind. It can be something that happened last week or something that happened years ago,” says Jones. “When I get it out on canvas, suddenly that exact same memory that used to be triggering becomes a pretty thing. The memory becomes more manageable and even a little nostalgic.”  

One of Jones’ memories overcome through her art now manifests itself as a pair of 5-foot-tall and 3-foot-wide paintings at Homme. With black, green, purple, pink, and yellow brushstrokes, Jones illustrates how she conquered her fight with imposter syndrome as a woman in a male-dominated art industry. She titled the duo, which showcases the turbulent journey of mentally abandoning the dark and stepping into the light, “And the Healing Wasn’t Pretty.”

“It’s the biggest painting I have ever done,” she says. “I remember feeling really intimidated, not knowing if it would turn out well, and wondering if I was just wasting my time. It took me a while to finish it, but I am really happy with how it turned out. I gained a lot of confidence from the experience.”

Jones continues, “I feel like I am figuring things out; I am finding my voice in the art community. When I look at the painting that’s what I see, it symbolizes a pivotal moment. A moment that helped me feel less like an imposter.”

Tackling her insecurities about her talent, Jones prides herself on being intentional and authentic while creating. The work that comes to life on her canvas is like a roadmap of her thoughts, though she also realizes viewers might never fully understand what’s in her head or the real meaning behind her work. 

“I don’t expect people to feel exactly what I felt when I was creating these paintings. I hope they’ll be able to assign their own emotions and feelings when they look at my work,” she says. “That’s the interesting thing about abstract art, people can look at the same thing and still see completely different things.”

The Opposite of Nostalgia is on display through March 10 at Homme Gallery’s L Street location. Visitors can reach out to @heatherjonesart and @homme_dc via Instagram to schedule a visit. Free.