Hood River Artist: Leah Hedberg

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Give us a little background info about you.

I’m a photographer who is passionate and curious about the natural world here in the Gorge. I do photography and printmaking from a home studio in Hood River, Oregon. My husband and I have a son, age eleven, and a daughter who is nine. I studied photography at Northern Arizona University before moving to Hood River in 2000.

How did you get started with your art?

After some years working as a portrait and wedding photographer, which was an enjoyable art also, I began to see things like I was seeing people, with eccentricities and personalities and lots to say through the camera. This grew into photographing everyday things I found around me. Here in the Hood River Valley, one of the most abundant things is fruit, so this was the subject that led me into looking at the nature of ordinary things through the language of light. What I’d learned from portraiture transferred naturally to this newer work, and my eyes keep wondering about other things and finding new surprises.

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How do you involve your children in your passion for art?

I try to involve them by sharing what I’m working on, or asking their opinions. But I enjoy also the ways they involve me in their passionate view of the world. Just the other day, my nine-year-old and I were lying on the couch … our heads were upside-down, and she said, “everything looks funny.” I asked her how things are looking, and she said, “Well, the kitchen faucet looks like a goose, the ceiling fan has bats where those things attach, and the coat cabinet is winking, see?” The clarity of vision kids have and the things they say can spark my thinking in a creative direction. I’m always asking my kids if I can post their sketches and writing around my workspace because they inspire me to try and start from a fresh and innocent view of things again every day.

What does your work aim to say?

My work aims to ask questions about the nature of things rather than saying anything in particular. I hope that when people see my work, they feel they could step right into the picture and feel at ease, and have a sense of possibility from what occurs to them.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

The landscape of the Columbia Gorge; my mother, father, and sisters; photographers Dorothea Lange, Alfred Stieglitz, and painter Georgia O’Keeffe; naturalists and writers like Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, John O’Donohue, and many musicians and poets.

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What current art world trends are you following?

I’m following the information shift that places artists and collectors directly in touch with one another in meaningful ways. I’m also interested in how people and companies honor creative intellectual property, and in people and organizations finding new ways to prioritize intrinsic and artistic value over money.

What is something you can't live without in your studio?

A pair of speakers.

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How do you balance motherhood and your work/art?

One thing I’m learning is that creativity and organization have a mysterious inverse relationship. The better I can organize the routine aspects of life to minimize repetitive decision-making, the more free and creative I can be. So I use a lot of lists and systems to keep headspace available. 

I work from home, which is challenging but also a great privilege. One of my goals the past several years has been to live a more integrated life, working on the skill of switching hats while trying to maintain the centeredness and integrity of motherhood in many endeavors. I’m not always in balance, but I’m learning how motherhood can work hand-in-hand with professional life, because wanting what’s best for my children and desiring good things to unfold (professionally) for the world are congruent ends. The more I’m able to trust that everything I do aims toward a common goal, the more wholesome I feel regardless of what I’m able or unable to accomplish.

Why did you join the studio tour?

I joined because I heard about it from a colleague, and found it to be a great group of professional artists serving the community with a mission I really believed in. The community of artists and visitors together make it so enjoyable. We have 41 talented and hardworking artists participating this year. If you haven’t visited the Gorge Artists Open Studios Tour, I hope you’ll visit a few studios this spring! 

Find Leah on the Gorge Artists Studio Tour April 20, 21 & 22 from 10:00am-5:00pm.