Art. Freedom. Love.
by Patricia Vaccarino
Artist Milan Heger is in love with freedom as much as he is in love with art. Before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, he did a two-year stint in a military camp. During the long-bone-chilling winters, only the dream of freedom kept him alive. He found an old abandoned outhouse in the woods and turned this tiny cube into a private art studio. By night in the grueling dark, he used primitive tools to paint on a makeshift canvas. It was here in this cold tight space that he came to know without art, there is no freedom. Art is the only pure human expression that cannot be chained, except for, maybe, love.
No force on earth can stop art or the artist who will pursue his/her/their work, no matter what forces try to stop him. Even authoritarianism that comes in many guises of political power, from communism to fascism, cannot stop art.
Milan Heger was born in Lucenec, Czechoslovakia (now Slovak Republic) during the Cold War, when tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were at an all time high. Heger remembers being surrounded by art, literature and music in the cocoon of an accomplished family. It was his own grandfather who first taught him to draw. Suddenly his family was forced to flee their home, leaving their possessions behind, as Communism gripped Czechoslovakia, and laid siege to the country’s collective intellect, legal system and all forms of its art and culture.
“Growing up as a child, we had it pretty good when compared to other Communist bloc countries,” says Heger. “Not like Russia or Romania we did have open markets and gardens. We did not have the hardship of being starved to death like Romania.”
He rebelled as a teen, challenging totalitarian ways of thinking and became part of a group of young dissidents. “The whole country was encircled with several layers of barbed wire fence,” he says. “You needed to have a permit to travel outside of the communist countries (out of the eastern bloc).”