Mama's Ink

Heather Gargon, 22, has logged many miles since dropping out of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. After taking a cross-country trip to scope out a new place to live two and a half years ago, the redhead from rural Ohio chose Phoenix for its warm climate and low-key -- but burgeoning -- arts scene. Since then, Gargon has shown her works at The Firehouse, Thought Crime, Carly's Bistro, and Mainstay, but she now works out of Le Fort gallery on Polk, along with resident artists Alicia O'Reilly and Isaac Fortoul, Gargon's fiancé and "baby daddy" to her 8-month-old daughter, Elle.

The deal with those weird bird-and-worm drawings: Isaac is the worm, and I'm the bird. When I started hanging out with him, I called him the worm because he's got this round little face and this smile that's huge, and I'd say, "You look like a glowworm." And he would always call me bird, 'cause I've got a big nose. He'd be like, "You've got a beak." Before Isaac and I even started dating, we'd just make fun of each other.

Welcome to Phoenix: I moved here with art on my back -- I had this big, backpack portfolio -- and a bag. And that was all I had when I moved here. I took a Greyhound bus on a three-day trip, and it was horrible. And I came into the city, and it was a couple months before Art Detour, and I found somewhere to show for Art Detour right away. And I've been showing here somewhere every month since then.

Pregnant with inspiration: I didn't use a lot of color until I had Elle. Everything was black-and-white, and then Elle comes into the world and brings the color. I did these [Robotic Aquatic #1 and Robotic Aquatic #2] right after I had Elle. I'm doing these, and she's this screaming newborn.

What's really going on in Robot Aquatic #1: [The woman] is like a human submarine. I did it because of Elle. It's this baby seeing the world for the first time. Before the baby sees the world on the outside, it's in your womb and they're kind of seeing everything you're seeing. That's kind of what this piece is about.

The fetus is watching: Once you're pregnant, you can't just clean up your act once they're born. You've got to start in the womb. Everything you're seeing, they see. As soon as she was conceived, I was a 100 percent different person. I wouldn't even swear. I tried not to watch horrible things on TV. Isaac would be like, "You're watching that? The fetus is seeing that!"

Favorite medium: Pen and ink. When it comes down to it, pen and ink is affordable. It's like, "All right, I've got two bucks for a pen and seven dollars for a pad of paper, and I can make 20 drawings."

Her obsession with Pilot V5 and Uni-Ball Micro 5.0 pens: I have to have a pack on the table. These are the only pens I'll work with. If I don't have them, I'll have a fit. I'll be like, "Where'd my pen go?" I have this mindset where if I don't have these pens, I can't do good work or something. I'll actually go out of my way to go and buy them. A lot of places don't have them, and I'll go crazy if I'm some place that doesn't have them.

What she does when she takes a break: I like to eat a lot. I really do. And it's hard because I like to make my own food, and so when I have a little break and Elle is sleeping, I like to make something good I can eat, with fresh veggies.

Genesis of genius: I remember the first thing I ever drew because I got a spanking for it. I drew this big blob on my bedroom wall. God, it had to be when I was, like, 3 or 4. It was a big blob in permanent marker, and it had a little banner over the top, which had gibberish written on it. I specifically remember trying to write something, because I used to really love those planes that would fly over with banners. So I guess I was trying to do that. That was my first artistic vision. A blob with a banner flying above it.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea