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Mary Heilmann (1940-)


Big Bill




Acrylic and opaque watercolor on canvas


Overall: 43 3/16 × 40 1/8 in. (109.7 × 101.9 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Evelyn Meyers

Accession number


Object Label

Mary Heilmann’s paintings often incorporate the grid and geometric forms, using techniques derived from her study of ceramics, such as the application of paint in thick, dripping strokes. Big Bill, created with an unusual combination of tempera and synthetic polymer, reveals Heilmann’s engagement with the way paint lies on the surface, with the speed and fluency possible with varying brushwork, and with the emotional resonance of color. Heilmann thinks like an object-maker: "When I make a painting, I’m like a kid stacking blocks; I push the shapes around in my mind. . .I was a potter first, and that’s an activity that also depends on geometry." Big Bill also explores the psychological effects of slightly skewing geometric forms, of keeping them just fractionally off-balance.