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Through the Windshield

Through the Windshield

Jack McLaughlin

Cody Heichel’s small-scale collection reimagines Columbus from the driver’s seat

From an empty Victorian Village street corner to a raw, textured depiction of Neil Avenue in the rain, you’re probably left wondering about the perspective from which Columbus-based painter Cody Heichel views his landscapes.

The answer? A large percentage of these paintings were completed—believe it or not—inside of Heichel’s car. 

“Just as a person, I can feel uncomfortable when I’m out in the open. Some people thrive off the social side of painting on location, but I notice that my work seems to suffer when I’m not giving it my full attention,” Heichel said. “Once I started painting from the car, I noticed I felt very comfortable, and concentrated; it’s how a vast majority of these paintings were made, or at least started.”

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Now on display at Brandt-Roberts Galleries in the Short North, this set of over 30 small-scale (some a mere 8.5 by 8.5 inches) landscape paintings makes up Heichel’s newest solo show, entitled Amid the Greens. Most depict local Columbus scenes in his signature raw, minimalist style.

And while you might think a painter rolling around in his Subaru Ascent sketching together scenes of the Columbus cityscape might not have much to say about art at all, that’s where you’re wrong. Because if anything, in Amid the Greens, Heichel’s work is about how we see the world around us—whether that’s the houses on our daily walk, or the city of Columbus through the windshield of a car.

As with so many, the pandemic also contributed to a change of perspective for Heichel. 

Last year when COVID-19 hit, Heichel found himself spending more and more time with his young son who was forced to remain home from school. And while at this time many parents found themselves in the role of teacher, it was Heichel who became the student.

Photo by Ally Schnaidt

“As we were spending time at a park outside or something, he would start to take notice of a few seeds on the ground. Or in our backyard, we’re sitting in the same space for a long time and he would ask why our neighbor’s fence had a door in it, who would use that?” he said. “I couldn’t help then but to have my thoughts about all these things we overlook everyday.”

These instincts come to life immediately in his new paintings, which are sparse and quiet in the plainness of their subjects.

“I started to find potential in smaller and smaller things, and there was almost infinite potential in my backyard, and that’s wonderful,” Heichel said.

Aside from depicting quotidian street scenes from around Columbus, other paintings like Three Trees Midday show exactly what they claim: a trio of leafless trees standing together in the afternoon sun. Likewise, Dining Room Table depicts a simple scene Heichel likey sees every day: his own dining room in his Columbus home, with a corner lamp and polished wood table.

Because so little is present in these, we’re forced to ruminate on what is there: interesting form and shape, along with the artist’s distinctly painterly presentation that shows the thick swathes of oil paint and even the marks from each brushstroke if you look close enough.

And while the work from Amid the Greens isn’t going to reinvent the wheel—and Heichel himself doesn’t claim it will either—what it can do is remind us of what we really have around us, and how it’s probably worth paying a little more attention to.                                   

“I want this to bring back light in things that are right in front of people, and remind them that there’s interest everywhere you look,”  Heichel said. “Even if it’s something you see everyday.”

You can learn more at codyheichel.com.

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