Alum Spotlight: Heather Boersma

Headshot of Heather Boersma

We were so pleased to have Heather Boersma ’89 present her show Covid Purse Diary at K in fall 2022. While we were setting the show up, we chatted with her about her work, her time at K, and her path after graduation.

Heather majored in English when she studied at Kalamazoo College. She didn’t start painting until her junior year, but she fell in love with it immediately. For her SIP, she created a series of poems that were paired with paintings.

Q & A with Heather

In Covid Purse Diary, you use a wide variety of found and repurposed materials. Can you talk about what significance those materials have for you?

I began going for nature walks during lockdown and found Witch’s Burr that looks just like pictures of the Covid 19 virus. When I discovered tiny liquor bottles on my runs, I began to wonder about ways we were dealing with the stress of the pandemic. Once I started collecting objects like artifacts telling the story of the pandemic, everything from torn flags to Monopoly money began to take on a symbolic power.

Covid Purse Diary seems to speak to collection and accumulation. Each work is comprised of collected materials, and when installed, the work collects or accumulates on the wall. How do you think about collection and accumulation within your practice?

There is a power in numbers that cannot be denied.  Usually, we admire car, jewelry, or vintage handbag collections, but I wanted to surprise people with traditional overlooked materials like the delicate design of burrs or mushrooms, even toilet paper tubes. 

  • an off-white Covid Purse by Heather Boersma, made of natural materials

Tell us a little bit about your path after college. What are you doing now, and how did you get there?

I discovered the joy of teaching children while leading workshops as a Teaching Artist. Now that my children have grown, I devote more time to creating art or showing my art in other cities.

Tell us about something you’ve done that you’re really proud of or happy with, or that you feel fulfilled by. This could be professional or personal!

Creating this collection during the pandemic was both creative obsession and therapy. Whenever I was tempted to panic, I would create a piece of art, knowing that others were struggling too. When my mother was in the hospital for a month in Maryland, I watched her dog in a hotel and made Covid purses out of hotel keys, dog food, and pinecones.  Later she came to live near me and created her own Covid Survivor purse that I treasure.

Do you have any advice for current K students or recent grads?

Never give up your passion even if you need to find other ways to create an income. Your practical job can teach you skills you can apply to your art later. 

More about Heather

See more of Heather’s work on her website

Follow Heather on Instagram

More Posts