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Queen of the Night
ART TIMES September 2007

I WAS INVITED in early July —along with our Publisher, Cornelia Seckel—to a special opening at the home of painter, sculptor, calligrapher, and stained glass artist Franz Heigemeir and his wife Marianne, herself an accomplished pastel painter of floral motifs (among other subjects). No ordinary, run-of-the-mill art opening, this was a rare event, a one-night affair open to but a few lucky enough to be invited. The Heigemeirs, cultured Europeans who know and appreciate the uniqueness of some special types of creative beauty, are the proud owners of an epiphyllum oxypetalum, a special vine-like cactus known (in English) as “Queen of the Night”.  A species of tropical flora found primarily in Brazilian South America, its name signals its unique claim to fame, namely the production of a large and regal bloom that comes into all its glory and then fades forever from view, and all in the space of a single night. I’d learned about the Heigemeir’s epiphyllum oxypetalum back in July 2005 when Franz had a one-person show at the Woodstock Artists Association Museum (WAAM) featuring large-scale paintings of the “Queen of the Night”, the exhibit his personal homage to this special one-night event and one that I critiqued in these pages. Back then, he promised me a first-hand viewing of the actual event, a promise that was honored this July. The Heigemeirs live in a lovely home that they built themselves, complete with an open-spaced cathedral ceiling, working studios, a rear deck overlooking a lake, and a full, private gallery where one may comfortably view both Franz’s and Marianne’s work. The “Queen of the Night” resides just off the kitchen, in front of an “A-frame” wall of glass with a southern exposure, its long sinewy vines reaching up and entwining the open rafters above. In keeping with this special, invitation-only, opening reception, the Heigemeirs had four chairs carefully arranged around a cloth-covered table that was laid out with fruit, pepperoni, wine, and cheese and set out some five feet in front of epiphyllum oxypetalum — the optimum viewing distance. A subtle earthy odor gradually permeated the room shortly after we arrived, as if setting the stage for the upcoming show. Then, slowly and silently, as we sat, chatted, and sipped our wine, not one, but six separate virginally white “Queens” deigned to fully reveal themselves to us. Unperturbed by our exclamations of surprise and delight, they suffered our snapping photo after photo, haughtily ignoring the flash of the camera or our rude hands as we gently manipulated this or that blossom to better photographic advantage. The entire episode lasted for about three hours — enough time to take in all of the regal beauty of each of the “Queens” and to cap the evening with some of Franz’s home-brewed cassis (made from the currants that grow in a well-tended row alongside their home). Much to our delight, just before we stepped out into the evening, Marianne and Franz snipped off two of the “Queens”, which they immediately plunged into a jar of ice-water and handed to us to take home. Alas, by the following morning these rare “Ladies of the Night” hung wilted and forlorn, their “one-night-stand” finally at an end. The memory, however, of their grand performance will last Cornelia and me for a lifetime!

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