Mary Heilmann was born in 1940 in San Francisco, California. She earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1962), and an MA from the University of California, Berkeley (1967).
After graduating from Berkeley, she moved to New York City, where she was inspired by pop culture and minimalist sculpture. This served as the basis for her stylistic flatness, saturated colors, and irregular forms in her paintings. However, unlike the superficiality of 1960s pop culture seen in Warhol’s silkscreens, Heilmann’s works are imbued with deep meaning and backstories spun from her imagination and recollections, inspired by music, dreams, and pop icons. She sometimes places her works alongside handmade, equally colorful benches and chairs, inviting viewers to participate communally with her work and engage them in a more personal and intimate manner.
Mary Heilmann has received the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award (2006) and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She has had major exhibitions at the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York (2009); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2008); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2008); and Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2007), among others. Her works have appeared in Whitney Biennials (1972, 1989, 2008) and can be found in many collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Orange County Museum of Art. She lives and works in New York.