“I need the sea because it teaches me,” reads the first line of Pablo Neruda’s poem “The Sea.” It’s a sentiment many Santa Babarans can relate too, as does area painter Mary Heebner. In fact, she was so moved by the Nobel Prize–winning Chilean’s works that she created a fine-art book pairing her vibrant paintings with selected poems.
Inspired by a visit to the Neruda museum in Isla Negra, Chile, Heebner put brush to canvas to create her Isla Negra series of paintings. “Returning to my studio … I summoned up memories of the wooden figureheads, some with dolefully glass eyes, that stared out to sea from Neruda’s window,” Heebner explains on her website. “I saturated sheets of handmade Torinoko paper with puddles of indigo pigment. Latent shapes emerged from these little seas of color. … I wanted to couple these paintings with poems that Neruda had written about the sea.” She pored through volumes of Neruda’s poetry to find the ones that best harmonized with her paintings. Then Heebner created 50 original, limited-edition books using handmade linen paper, letterpress-printed poems, and prints of the paintings.
Now folks can take a peek at Heebner’s objet d’art in an exhibit currently on display at City Hall Gallery. Titled On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea by Pablo Neruda, the show comprises a copy of the book, 12 framed folios, an original painting from the Isla Negra series, and illustrated didactic panels.