About the Cover, The Mysterious


Julie Heffernan’s rococo-surrealist self-portraits represent the artist as, among other things, a bare-chested female girdled in dead beasties, a towering glass skyscraper, and a beguiling young man who offers us a peek beneath the landscape he’s lifted up like an oriental rug. What unifies these lush, seductively enigmatic portraits is the sense of contained rapture as well as the tiny, ever-present tableaus—Boschian romps, domestic dramas—that exist within her paintings. With these windows into the alternate universes within, we see that we do indeed contain multitudes, if only we could access them. Mystery relies on our willful suspension of disbelief, and Heffernan is a master magician. No matter how absurd the conceit, her paintings possess a fevered dream logic that we can’t help but embrace; we know it’s impossible to remain upright and self-possessed when under attack by an avian mob in a grand ballroom, or when one’s head has been set on fire by a tiny city burning inside the body, yet we are convinced—even once we’ve left that dream state—that the world we entered was real. How she does it is a mystery.

–Elissa Schappell, Tin House magazine Editor-at-Large

Check out more of Heffernan’s work online.