Heller said that meeting her future mother in law, an artist, sculptor and dancer, inspired her to become an artist.
“Everything she did you loved,” said Heller, who said that she became very good friends with her future husband’s mother, to the point where they said they’d remain friends even if Heller and her son broke up.
Heller ended up marrying Mark Heller, and moved with him to Cooperstown in the 1970’s, after he got a job as an intern at Bassett Medical center. Mark Heller became a doctor at Bassett, a position he is now retired from.
Heller and her husband have lived other places besides Cooperstown since their move, but they have always kept the Cooperstown property.
Heller said that while she has heard that getting married or becoming a mother ends some peoples careers as artists, she has found the opposite has occurred for her.
“All my art comes right out of my life,” said Heller
Three of Heller’s exhibits; “America Comes Home,” “In Our Name: Iraqi Children in War” and “Mission Accomplished,” focused a critical lens on the Iraq War.
“I was angry that we went to war,” said Heller, who feels that we didn’t need to invade Iraq.
The inspiration for “America Comes Home,” came after Heller saw a picture of a young, female, American soldier in The New Yorker with a prosthetic leg.
“I froze when I saw it,” said Heller, who said she was reminded of her own daughter.
This motivated her to create America Comes Home, which combined muslin figures, paintings, photographs and statistics to document and memorialize American casualties of the Iraq War. She characterizes the exhibit as a parent’s view of war.
This was followed by “In Our Name: Iraqi Children in War,” a series of paintings and drawings based off pictures of wounded Iraqi children, and “Mission Accomplished,” which hung the muslin cloth figures from “America Comes Home,” in a three-dimensional space.