UNT alumna works with art of the past, present and future

UNT alumna works with art of the past, present and future

UNT alumna works with art of the past, present and future
February 05
21:52 2019

Grethe Wirth, UNT alumna and founder of Heirloom Art Co., uses her talent for painting to capture the essence of people she meets. Vibrant portraits with golden halos hang on the walls of her Denton home.

Wirth, who earned her degree in art history and drawing from UNT, said she discovered her passion for portraits during a middle school art project.

Grethe Wirth, founder of Heirloom Art Co., is surrounded by her collection of vintage pieces. Image by Jessika Hardy.

“Before, [making art] was always kind of fun, but I didn’t really like anything I made,” Wirth said. “In eighth grade, with the portrait project, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with portraits.”

Wirth feels that there is an intimacy and an expressive freedom allowed when painting portraits.

“Since you are putting so much time into the portrait of someone, I think it really expresses the interaction that you might have with that person,” Wirth said. “I think [with] the hands-on approach of painting and drawing, as far as portraits go, you can really show passion.”

Although portraits allow for expression, Wirth still considers the technical aspects of art when painting.

“Most of my inspiration came from artists from previous decades and centuries,” Wirth said. “Art history is so rich, so if you’re painting a certain way, it is nice to know that another artist did that and you can kind of study their work and see how they progressed.”

Kathleen Clark has been friends with Wirth since their sophomore year at UNT in 2011. Wirth was sitting in on one of Clark’s drawing classes when they met. Clark said that watching Wirth progress as an artist has been a source of inspiration for her.

Video by Jessika Hardy

“Grethe perceives stories and connections in a unique, deeply rooted way,” Clark said. “She is steeped in history and understands the importance of respecting what came before you and being grounded in the whimsy of reality.”

Wirth’s affinity for history extends to clothing, too. Wirth collects vintage clothing and sells them on Etsy. To display her clothing in her Etsy shop, Wirth enlists the help of other women to model the clothes for her shop’s online photos.

“[The models] voice their insecurities to me when we are shooting, so I’ve had the chance to be a sort of encouragement for them,” Wirth said. “That has been really cool and very unexpected.”

Grethe Wirth, founder of Heirloom ArtCo., admires a vintage piece she plans to use as her future wedding dress. Image by Jessika Hardy.

Wirth incorporates vintage in her art by basing her paintings off of old family photos she came across during college.

“[My mom] let me have [her computer] when I went to college because I really needed a laptop,” Wirth said. “It had all of these scanned-in images that were slides of my mom when she was a kid and then my grandma when she was a kid. I was going through all of these old photos and they were really speaking to me. I was like, ‘I have to paint these.'”

After graduating from UNT in 2017, Wirth decided to continue living in Denton instead of returning to her hometown of Burleson, Texas.

“People [here] are just really open-minded, so I feel like that gives you room to flourish as an artist,” Wirth said. “I don’t feel judged or like people think I’m weird for making art. I came from a really small town so being an artist already set me aside from everyone else. The artists here in Denton, since we have a pretty well-known art school, understand each other.”

Clark, who has not been creating as much lately, said Wirth’s art continually inspires her as an artist and a person.

“Thinking about someone like Grethe during this moment in my career gives me comfort,” Clark said. “She has remained herself and only grown despite all the changes she has chosen and been led to accept. Grethe is my example of continuity. Your story never falls off a cliff, everything is connected. You just have to look for the commonality and piece together the history later.”

Featured Image: Grethe Wirth, founder of Heirloom Art Co., admires a vintage wedding dress. Wirth graduted from UNT in 2017 with a degree in art history. Image by: Jessika Hardy. 

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Nikki Johnson-Bolden

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

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