May 25th, 2024

Katherine Heigl in her Utah studio. Photo by Hollye Shepherd

Gallery MAR is thrilled to present the inaugural solo showcase of Katherine Heigl, an interdisciplinary artist, devoted collector, and cherished friend, titled “Mother Nature,” opening May 31st, 2024. 

In anticipation of her upcoming exhibition, we sat down for an exclusive interview with Katherine Heigl to discuss her artistic journey, inspirations, and the profound connection between her art and her philanthropic endeavors.


Gallery MAR: So how and when did you discover your passion and aptitude for the visual arts? 

Katherine Heigl: Well, I’ve always loved to draw and I’ve kind of gone through little spurts throughout my life where I give it more of my attention. Like I remember being on the set of Grey’s Anatomy in my mid-twenties, and I would sketch and draw in between takes, and I have a couple of pieces that I would do in graphite that I had framed up on my walls. But then I lost track of it or got distracted with everything else in life.

My youngest is now seven, and he was probably a year old when I discovered these art supplies at Michael’s by Jane Davenport. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of her. She’s this wonderfully fun, whimsical artist out of Australia. She had these really fun supplies: beautiful watercolor paints and mermaid paint brushes. I bought a bunch for my niece for Christmas, and she didn’t end up using them, so I did. Suddenly, I was knee deep in the world of art again and playing with more than a pencil and blending tools (because that’s what I started with), and it just evolved from there. 

I bought some books of Jane Davenport’s to learn different techniques. I would go from set to set, from whatever I was working on as an actor, bringing all my Jane Davenport supplies with me and doing art on set in between scenes. Then, the pandemic happened and I suddenly had a lot more free time. I started taking a lot of these incredible online art courses called Domestika. They have everything from photography to computer software. They run the gamut of what you can learn there. I deep dove into the world of painting, drawing, all of that. Now here we are, six years later, having something I feel like I can actually show. 

Katherine Heigl’s mixed media works, “The Right Path” and “The Guide”

Gallery MAR: What an incredible evolution! I love that you used the word “play” earlier to describe your first exploration of the visual arts. It seems you’ve incorporated a plethora of media into your work and are continuously “playing” with new media. You’ve explored everything from pastel, charcoal, mixed media collage, oil, acrylic, the digital realm, and more. What do you love about exploring new and mixed media? 

Katherine Heigl: I just love the exploration of it and trying new things. Because I take so many online classes and everybody has their own unique style, I’ll get to try out their methods or their techniques. I think, ultimately, as I continue down this path, I’ll probably hone in on how I’m going to combine everything I’ve learned into my own particular style, but at this point I think mixed media is really going to be the thing I have the most passion for because I can’t settle on just one thing. I love creating works now that include everything from acrylic to oil to collage elements. I did one charcoal piece that I then included oil pastels in. I just can’t settle on one. I love all of the fun products. 


Gallery MAR: Honestly I don’t know that you need to. I mean, your experience in one media must inform another, too? 

Katherine Heigl: Oh, for sure! I just started taking this really fun, loose acrylic Impressionism course, and it’s really about putting in the hours and learning the way this medium is going to work in this environment. Quite frankly, at 7,000 feet up in the mountains, oils and acrylic dry very differently than I think they do at sea level. So you’re following along [with the course] and going, “well, it’s not working for me that way because this acrylic is drying so fast up here,” so then I went back to oils for a different piece, and I thought, “wow, that’s so much easier than acrylics at this altitude.” So a lot of it is trial and error, but they do definitely inform each other. I am constantly putting myself in a position of having to start over and learn a new medium, but the more you try, the more confident you get with how to achieve what you’re looking for. 

Katherine Heigl in her brand new studio, outside of her home in northern Utah. Photo by Hollye Shepherd

Gallery MAR: Well, speaking of your mixed media exploration, I’m looking at this one piece of yours, “Scarab,” and it seems like you have fiber incorporated in there as well. It gives it this really brilliant texture, which is something that really stands out in your work: your emphasis on creating texture. It really gives each piece greater depth, interest, and energy. Could you walk us briefly through your process – the labor of love it takes in building up these textured layers?

Katherine Heigl: Absolutely! So I just love art supplies. There is this beautiful paper store down in Salt Lake City that makes all of these beautiful, handmade papers. A lot of them are of different fibers and have natural elements in them like bark and leaves. They also have beautiful prints, so I got really carried away there one day. I’d been watching a lot of Downton Abbey, and I wanted to try to create a gown or a cape on this woman out of these papers like all the beautiful costumes in the show. I was really just messing around, but I wanted it to feel organic. A lot of the pieces I create though end up becoming their own thing regardless of my intentions, so the woman in this piece took on this almost 1950s housewife vibe. At the same time, there’s this sense of royalty with her cape, but it was all created using these papers until I achieved something close. Then the scarab is just my way of adding nature into these portraits. 


“Because I’m so well versed in [performance art] at this point, when I see a scene, I know the work that went into writing it that way and the set design and the costumes. I know how much work went into all of that, and it definitely inspires me. I love the idea of honoring that.”

– Katherine Heigl


Gallery MAR: Well that’s a powerful message in itself: the idea of blending a 1950s figure with a little bit of royalty. It sounds like you’re following the works’ lead, which I love. So what inspires you most to create? 

Katherine Heigl: Visually, I think the next series I do, I might want to really dive into that Downton Abbey-esque world because, visually, that show – the way they shot it and the way each of their scenes were set up – it was like art. If you freeze framed that moment, it’s like a painting. So, so much of it was so beautiful. So things like that, I’ll get really inspired by. 

Plus, a lot of what other artists are out there are already doing will inspire a spark of an idea for me. So I really stand on the shoulders of giants. I lean into what people out there are doing and how it can spark an idea for me. 

Katherine Heigl’s mixed media work “Scarab”

Gallery MAR: That’s so apt and interesting given your background. It sounds like your passion for performance art seems to inspire your visual art, is that right?

Katherine Heigl: Oh, absolutely! I mean, I’ve spent a lifetime in the performance arts, so I take my TV and film watching very seriously. My mother always likes to knit while she watches things, and I’m like “No, no, I want to see these scenes.” I want to see the performances and I want to see how they’re setting things up. Because I’m so well versed in it at this point, when I see a scene, I know the work that went into writing it that way and the set design and the costumes. I know how much work went into all of that, and it definitely inspires me. I also love the idea of honoring that. 


Gallery MAR: There’s something about your work that feels imbued with drama. Tonally, it feels a little moody and a little ethereal at times, especially with the textures and the way that you frame your compositions. It would make sense that you were inspired by the framing of performance art. 

Katherine Heigl: Definitely — It’s been my biggest focus the majority of my life, so it would be hard to escape. 

Katherine Heigl poses with her artwork for Gallery MAR in her Utah studio. Photo by Hollye Shepherd

Gallery MAR: I know another focus of your life, which seems to be a common motif of your artwork as well, is the animal and human dynamic. In fact, all sales from this exhibition will benefit your family’s non-profit, the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, which serves to end animal cruelty and abuse. For collectors who may not be familiar, could you give a little synopsis about this foundation and why this cause is important to you? 

Katherine Heigl: Absolutely. So I was raised in a home with lots of companion animals. There was a real love, appreciation, and respect for that relationship. In 2008, we started the foundation in my brother’s name who passed away in a car accident. It was a way of my mother giving him a legacy that he couldn’t create for himself while also doing something about this real issue we have in our country with the pet overpopulation. 

There’s a good majority of us who have companion animals that we deeply love and appreciate. These creatures bring so much to our lives in a way that no other heartbeat can. Feeling this way and then realizing what was going on for their kin – how helpless they were out there in the world and how they were not getting the protection they needed – inspired us to start this foundation to try to make a dent in that problem.

When we started the foundation, we had this almost naive idealism, thinking we were going to stop this. Now, however many years later, we are still in the trenches and the more in the trenches we are, the more passionate I’ve become about staying true to the course, about not giving up. So everything I have done, I have donated to the Foundation. Everything that I can put in (a portion of all of my salaries), my mother and I have put in personally. 

I thought that there was a way for me to continue to fund the foundation with my art. I wasn’t showing my artwork or doing anything with it because I was too nervous and feeling like too much of an amateur to even attempt it, so it was really the idea of doing it for the foundation that gave me courage to put myself out there in this way. So, yeah, it’s a deep, deep passion and purpose for me. 

I feel very strongly about the human-animal connection. I feel like it has been forgotten, ignored, and sidelined, to the real detriment of humanity as well as the animals. I see nature as a feminine energy, as a nurturing and unconditionally loving energy, so I wanted to remind the world that that’s there. So this show was my way of trying to speak to that.

Katherine Heigl’s mixed media work, “Nurture Me”

Gallery MAR: Well it ties nicely into your exhibition title of “Mother Nature.” It seems like a very beautiful full circle moment. Thank you for sharing that. Plus, I love what you said about there being “no other heartbeat like our animals,” that’s so beautifully said.

Katherine Heigl: There’s something unique about the simplicity of the relationship with your dogs or your cats or whatever companion animal you have. Honestly, I have guinea pigs now, and I freaking love them. They bring me so much joy. I just stare at them, and they’re so funny to me. They’re like little cartoon characters. What simple pleasure and joy these creatures bring to our lives. I think honoring that and protecting it is our calling. We are their custodians. We are their voice. I just want to remind people of that and remind them that that connection is there and to lean into it.


“I feel very strongly about the human-animal connection. I feel like it has been forgotten, ignored, and sidelined, to the real detriment of humanity as well as the animals. I see nature as a feminine energy, as a nurturing and unconditionally loving energy, so I wanted to remind the world that that’s there. So this show was my way of trying to speak to that.”

– Katherine Heigl


Gallery MAR: That’s so beautiful and such a great cause. It goes to show the power of art. What do you love most about the visual arts as an art form, in particular? 

Katherine Heigl: Well, you know that I have so much work from Gallery MAR in my house. We love it. Gallery MAR is my favorite gallery in Park City: I love Maren Mullin’s curation, and I love her artists, so my house has been sort of turned into a gallery at this point. I am so attracted to the visual arts, and there are so many beautiful pieces in this home that, every time I take a moment to really look at it, it inspires something in me. And I think that’s what art can be for everybody. It’s individual. It’s very subjective. It’s different for everybody. Everybody responds to the same piece differently, right? It inspires a different emotion or feeling or memory, but that’s what I find so exciting about it. It has this incredible power to draw forth something from each one of us individually and uniquely. 

Katherine Heigl’s mixed media work, “The Companion”

Gallery MAR: I love that you touched on your own experience collecting art as well. How does it feel to go from being a longtime collector here at Gallery MAR to now being an exhibiting artist? 

Katherine Heigl: It feels like this crazy dream. I was – and really am still – very nervous because I know what it is to put myself on the stage, and I know you are opening yourself up, inevitably, to opinions and negativity and criticism, and I’m used to that in my other job, but I was really nervous to do it in this in this world. I told my mother a while back that it’s been this dream I’ve been putting out there for the last couple of years that someday I would love to do a gallery show. So when Maren reached out about it, and I was hesitating (not knowing if I felt ready and all of that), my mother said, “remember that this was your dream, you have to allow it to come true.” There’s no reward without risk right, so it just feels a bit like a dream come true and an interesting full circle moment for me. I keep trying to remind myself of that as we get closer. 

The whole experience has been really thrilling and exciting. I have all of these friends and family coming to the exhibition opening. Everybody has been so supportive. It’s funny, I don’t know the last time this many friends or family have come to one of my film openings, but they’re all coming for my gallery show, which I just find so wonderful. 

Heigl painting in her studio. Photo by Hollye Shepherd

Gallery MAR: That’s amazing! I love that your loved ones are coming out to support you in this new venture. It may sound strange to some to hear that you have such nerves about it, given your profession and your extensive experience in performance art, which seems way more nerve-wracking than visual art.

Katherine Heigl: Yeah, I don’t know, I think it’s because I started out acting as a kid, right? So if you start young enough like that, you’re too young to be nervous. Like, you don’t realize what you’re doing. You’re just out there, having a good time, going, “really? You want me to be in your movie? Great!” Then by the time I was an adult and realized the amount of scrutiny and pressure there was, I was so used to it or I felt so confident about it because I put in those 10,000 hours, but this is a little different. 


“I think every one of us is made up of a creative spirit and whatever that manifests as, whether it’s the visual arts or it’s cooking or it’s leather work or it’s knitting or crocheting or whatever, there’s a million ways to express your creativity and now there are a million ways to get some tips and tricks and tools to do it online. So just do it, don’t hesitate, just do it.”

– Katherine Heigl


Gallery MAR: Well I imagine that because your visual artwork was such a private practice for so long that it must feel vulnerable just to have that sacred space become more public. I believe I heard that your husband was the first to encourage you to start sharing your work, is that correct? 

Katherine Heigl: He took the lead on that, yeah. He just posted it [online]. He was just like, “enough, you need to have some confidence about this and put it out there.” He is such an incredible example of that, too. Josh, with his confidence, will just put himself out there. He started doing this leather carving recently, which is just so complicated, beautiful, painstakingly time-consuming. But even with his earliest work, he just started putting it out there with such faith that it’ll be received. Because of that, he’s connected with other makers who he learns things from and he’s become friends with them on social media. Then suddenly he’s got the best, most renowned leather worker in the world inviting him to come to his studio and show him some techniques. I’m like the exact opposite, so that’s why he just took the reins and went, “no, you’re gonna put this out there, and we’re just gonna see what happens, and you’ll be fine.” 

Josh Kelley working on one of his leather artworks. Photo by Hollye Shepherd

Gallery MAR: Speaking of Josh’s leather working, I know that some of his leather work is going to be in this exhibition. Could you tell us a little bit about that? 

Katherine Heigl: This whole thing has turned into such a sort of wonderful moment in our lives. I love that we’re doing it together. It bolsters my confidence that he’ll be there with me, sharing his own work, too. And his work is so cool. It’s so different from what I do. He actually took art courses in college, so he can really draw and paint. He’s really talented in that world, too. Lately, his passion has become this sort of Americana leather world. He designs all of his own patterns. He’ll sketch them out first and then trace them on, spending weeks on a piece just carving in a beautiful cactus leaf pattern. He’s been putting the time in and he’s gotten better and better and more well-versed in it. He’s gone from doing things like belts or guitar straps for his musician friends to building an entire saddle from scratch. He didn’t just take a saddle and start carving a pattern into it – he built the whole thing. It took him months. 

A custom, made-from-scratch leather saddle by Josh Kelley

Gallery MAR: Wow, that’s truly remarkable. What a creative couple you two are! I know that you now have your own gorgeous new studio in which to create, too. Could you tell us a little bit about this new studio and how having a designated studio space has influenced or inspired your creative process? 

Katherine Heigl: Oh totally, I mean it’s been such a blessing. Before, I was working out of the house. It was during the pandemic when everybody was home and locked down. You can’t go anywhere, so you’re kind of stuck together. So just carving out enough time and headspace to create art was almost impossible, but I needed it. I needed that outlet, I needed to feel creative. Plus, when you put all of these beautiful art supplies in front of kids, they’re going to get into it. So they were stealing my stuff, using my specialty brushes, and finally I thought, “I need to create a space that’s just mine.” 

So I found this company out of Canada called Drop Structure. They build the structure in Canada, then they drive it out here, and they crane it into your property. What a blessing it’s been. Now I just have to be careful because I will lose myself in there, day after day, for eight hours at a time. My kids are like, “where’s mom?” So I have to drag myself out of there and put some attention into the rest of my life because that space has become such a haven for me. During the work week when the kids are at school, that’s when I can get in there and really lose myself to it with no guilt. I try not to do that when the kids are home, so I can be in for dinner. 


Gallery MAR: How inspiring for your kids to have a mom and dad be so creative around the house. It sounds like you have a very inspiring space there with those gorgeous open windows to overlook the Utah landscape. What do you love about living and creating in northern Utah? 

Katherine Heigl: We live out in Oakley, which is even more remote and more spacious than Park City, and it’s a real sanctuary here for us and our family. When we first built here, it was with the expectation of having a vacation home, somewhere we could come for the summer and for the holidays, because I was working so often and so much in LA. Then things shifted in my career, and where I work is not always in one place, so it didn’t matter where I lived. I would always have to travel for work regardless, so we decided to make this our permanent residence. For me, it’s just a sanctuary and a safe haven where I can really decompress. I can think clearly and find some peace and quiet. The stillness of these mountains around us has just soothed my soul. When you’re in the hustle and in the hubbub for so long, you forget that you kind of need that. It’s like a living meditation for me to be here. It just makes it really hard to go back to work. You get really comfortable in this kind of quiet, peaceful place and then you’re like, “Oh, that’s right, I gotta get back out there.” 

Katherine Heigl’s mixed media piece, “Bear”

Gallery MAR: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the visual arts or exploring a new passion or interest? 

Katherine Heigl: I say just go for it. In today’s age, it’s all at our fingertips. It would have been very difficult for me to go sign up for an art program at a school with an hour to two hour drive there and back every day, and I probably wouldn’t have done it, but now that we can just type what our interests might be into a search engine and get it right in our homes at our fingertips, there’s no excuse to not just give it a shot. There’s no pressure, there’s no expectations, just play, just indulge it. I think every one of us is made up of a creative spirit and whatever that manifests as, whether it’s the visual arts or it’s cooking or it’s leather work or it’s knitting or crocheting or whatever, there’s a million ways to express your creativity and now there are a million ways to get some tips and tricks and tools to do it online. So just do it, don’t hesitate, just do it. 


Gallery MAR: What an inspiring example your story is of exploring your passions and interests and having the courage to put it out there. We just love to hear it. Well, I only have one last question for you so thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. My final question for you is what are you currently most excited about in the studio? That could be a subject, a media, a color, etc., something that is really exciting to you right now in the studio. 

Katherine Heigl: Well, it’s actually really fun. Josh gave me a little direction on this one because he has an album coming out that he’s been working his a** off on. It’s hilarious, he’s making leather and music… Where does he find the time? I don’t know. Anyways, I’ve been doing a lot of the artwork for his album covers, so he asked me if I would do one for the first single that’s getting released soon. He felt like the song had a specific vibe, like the ’70s on Venice beach: bright and poppy. I loved the visual that he gave me, and so I started researching ’70s Venice Beach and the imagery that started coming up was so fun and summery and the color palettes were so delicious. So I really ended up leaning into it, and now I’m wanting to do a whole series in that vibe. I’ve been using acrylics and some collage, and I think I might go in with some oils, but this style that I’ve been doing, is not meant to be super detailed. It’s supposed to feel looser and more impressionistic, which is challenging for me. I get very studiously fixated on perfection, so I’m trying to back off and free up a little bit. It’s so fun, I’m loving it. 

A sneak preview of Katherine Heigl’s newest work for her musician husband Josh Kelley’s latest album cover

Gallery MAR: I’m excited to see what comes of this. It seems like your palette now skews a little more natural and jewel toned, so the idea that it’s gonna be this punchy ’70s vibe is pretty exciting. Well, thank you so much for the conversation — we really appreciate you taking the time. Best of luck at the exhibition! We cannot wait to see more from you.  

Katherine Heigl: Thank you! Have a great one!

Gallery MAR: Thank you, you, too!


Written and Interviewed by Veronica Vale