Eric Heckert: The Surreal Deal
Photo by J. Carli Wentworth
When We Met Up With Local Artist And Founder Of Pop Alchemy Eric Heckert, he was driving back to Oklahoma from Baton Rouge, where his piece, “DA’AT,” was selected from more than a thousand national entries as one of 80 works
to be featured at the Baton Rouge Gallery Center for Contemporary Art’s Surreal Salon Six exhibition.
The trip from Baton Rouge, we learned in our conversation,
is just one scenic lookout along Heckert’s extremely visual, esoteric and artistic journey through pop surrealism.
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Are you a native Oklahoman? My dad worked for the FAA, so we lived all around the country. I’ve lived in Oklahoma since 1985.
How did you come to be a professional artist? I’ve been an artist all my life. For many years, I worked in air traffic control as a ghost pilot, but I really wanted to give art my full attention, so a few years ago, I quit my job and took the plunge.
And the planes didn’t fall from the sky? No. They did fine without me.
Would you describe that leap of faith as the best decision you ever made? Absolutely. I was terrified at first, but I’d definitely do it again. That decision allowed me to put out my best work.
What’s the best part of your job? Freedom. Being able to express what makes me, me.
What’s the B-side of the job? Downtime. That’s when doubt can creep in and you wonder if you’ve made the right decision. It’s one thing to know in your heart that this is what you’re meant to do. It’s another for the world to catch up with it.
What inspires you for this work? The constant surprise at what comes out of it. It’s like problem solving to me – I start with a concept in its basic form and rebuild it.
What other skills do you have? Does karaoke count? I can also do a mean robot.
You must be great at parties. Do you stockpile worthless trivia, too? Tons! I’m awesome at Trivial Pursuit. I’m a pop culture enthusiast and I feel lucky to have been born at the apex of pop culture and the dawn of mass communications, although I’m crap at social media.
Your website, popalchemy.com, is a fascinating read. Do you keep a blog? Not really, but I’ve got about 400 followers on Twitter, so I guess you could say that’s my blog.
Who do you think you could be mistaken for? I get James Spader a lot. The older, on-“The-Blacklist” James Spader.
What can’t you help watching on TV? “Parks and Recreation.” I’m also renewing my HBO subscription just to watch “True Detective.”
What do you value most in your friends? Love. Loyalty. Great conversation.
What should people learn to do? Not to worry about what other people think. That’s what holds us back.
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon? I always got up early to watch “Super Friends,” but I loved “Scooby Doo” and all of them, really. I had my Saturday mornings planned all the way through “American Bandstand.”
How do you spend your Saturday mornings now? My wife Sandina and I have a Saturday ritual for dim sum at The Grand House (2701 N. Classen Blvd, Oklahoma City).
Do they have fortune cookies at The Grand House? Oh, yes.
If you could stash a little fortune inside one of those cookies for the next person to find, what would it say? Keep smiling.
What are you most grateful for? Life. Drinking it all in and swimming in it. For my wife, who inspires me every day. She’s the greatest person I know.
What character trait would you happily give up? Nothing. Part of our lesson is to take the good with the bad. We learn from both.
Which of those traits makes up part of the good? Sense of humor. I think it’s the most important thing.
What did you get in trouble for most often in school? Talking too much!
What do you hope people will never assume about you? That I take myself too seriously. That I have all the answers. That I’m unapproachable. I love talking to people (that’s why I got in trouble so much in class) and I hope that people always see me as a welcoming person.
Favorite quote? Know thyself.