Zenga’s - Mt. Carroll, IL
A uniquely creative force all her own, and a modern day Renaissance woman, there are not many media in the arts that Heather Houzenga has not tried her hand at, and that is evident in her body of work. The artwork that she produces, tending to lean on the mixed media bent, primarily focuses on upcycling items that others may readily discard, taking apart the elements and then creatively redesigning their functional output in a unique way.
Not all of her work, however, is focused on recycling. Her writing, paintings, prints and stetchbook images remain more expressionistically free from, implementing bright colors and conveying messages of love, justice, peace and harmony, standing as a testament to her life’s mission of bringing the arts forward in the Northwestern region of Illinois.
Growing up in a small town, Thomson, IL, the artist states she always knew that she was an artist deep down inside, but there were not very many opportunities for exposure to the arts to further her growth. So, instead of pursuing the arts in college, she first found herself trying on different hats and professions, but always made time to be creative.
Attending Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA, Houzenga was exposed to a much greater world (this, of course, is before computers) receiving her BA in English Literature, Studio Art and Teacher Education, grades K-12 for both disciplines, finishing her senior thesis in assemblage.
She began a teaching career, but all the while, her inner voice was pulling her towards her art.
“I have spent my life reimagining ordinary items, giving them a new purpose when their function has worn out. My art has grown because the folks around me had confidence in my talents and that helped me to tend to my inner garden. Eventually, I submitted to my artistic heart that was calling and here I am today, teaching part time elementary art, while pursuing my creative passion through my childhood nickname: Zenga. The emotional, therapeutic output when creating something is something quite intense.
While the materials I use may vary, because I prefer not to add to the landfill, a majority of the ideas for my line of “beautiful imperfections” stem from seeing things from my own, unique perspective. And, what I’ve learned on my journey, is that through hard work and perseverance, finding my voice and producing what was in my heart, begging to be let out, may not always be understood by everyone, but that doesn’t matter, because it is understood by me.”
Since she moved back to the Northwestern Illinois area, Houzenga has been a part of many initiatives to bring the arts forward in her rural communities. She has helped countless others, musicians, writers and visual artists to have the courage to seek out their own calling upon their hearts, to harness their strength to stand up and say, “this is my soul, unveiled for you to see.”