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The Poetry of Mushrooms
Jackie Heitchue

I study mushrooms in a most unscientific way. While there are more than 10,000 known species in North America, I couldn’t name more than one or two of those I’ve unearthed. I have read that some toadstools glow in the dark while others are infamously hallucinogenic, but I don’t know why or how. Instead, I’m captivated by the toadstool’s infinitely varied beauty. Oblivious to the sky or horizon, I walk familiar country lanes head bent to the world at my feet. Seemingly overnight, new fungi sprout from the leaf litter like bouquets from a secret admirer. The language of love is often spoken through flowers, but the elegant and fabled toadstool speaks louder to me.

The mushrooms I collect come mostly from my yard or neighboring woods, as much a part of my home as the possessions in my house. The shapes and colors of toadstools remind me of my stash of inherited treasures: faded thread from Nana’s sewing basket, great Aunt Adelaide’s teapot, or my mother’s linen tablecloth. I combine these artifacts with backdrops crafted from the pages of hand–me–down books or scraps of old fabric. The tiny vignettes portray my mushrooms in domestic scenes meant to tell stories of a real or imagined past. Each portrait is a prayer, a spell I cast in search of feelings remembered or wished for.

- Jackie Heitchue

This series won a Portfolio Award in the 2019 San Francisco Bay International Photography Awards.

Jackie Heitchue’s nomadic childhood spanned the country, from the suburbs of Los Angeles to Ohio and Virginia.  Finally settling in New England with her husband and children, the move felt like a homecoming, a sentiment borne out by a family lineage of Puritans, indentured servants, and an unfortunate Salem witch.  Ruminating over these historic connections while engrossed in the daily minutia of child–rearing, Jackie became fascinated with the universal themes of family and motherhood that connect one generation to the next. Whether photographing her children as they grew up, or creating her most recent still lifes, her work is both deeply personal and allegorical.  

Heitchue graduated with a BFA from the Corcoran School of Art. She has worked as an award–winning photojournalist, a printer in the Library of Congress darkroom, and as a high school photography teacher. Her current work has shown in galleries in New England, including two solo shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Farther afield, her work was selected for publication and exhibition in the Portfolio showcase at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado. She was honored with a Gold Award from the San Francisco Bay International Photography Exhibition and has also participated in shows at the Southeast Center for Photography in South Carolina and the Candela Gallery

Visit Jackie Heitchue’s site