Artist, Armando Heredia, featured at and Collinsville Herald

As an artist, Collinsville resident Armando Heredia can go to some dark places. His art often shows depictions of despair on media that can be bullet-riddled or full of shattered glass. And a recent performance-art piece addressed imprisonment and oppression.

But Heredia said he uses that darkness to find hope.

"I shine a light into a dark world and let people at least see the shadows — even if they don't see the light," Heredia said from his home-based studio last week. "And there's hope in that."

Gleaning something positive out of the negative has become a specialty for the 39-year-old Texas native.

Heredia's most recently completed piece, "The Party Dress," shows a human figure covered by the penciled images of a menacing man towering over a frightened woman and four tormented children. Heredia said it is one of his most personal pieces because it tells his story. He was 3 years old when his father beat his mother to death in front of their four children.

"We were all there trying to stop it," Heredia said.

That experience, along with years of foster care and drug abuse, gave Heredia the passion and compassion to be able to express feelings of anger, frustration and pain in his art. For example, his "Freedom" series, which uses paint on Styrofoam, was created in response to the recent unrest in the Middle East.

"I think there's a freedom in seeing other people express pain because it gives you permission to feel it," he said.

And Heredia decided that his art would not only help people with their own feelings but also bring attention to the plight of others. Last month, Heredia embarked on a performance-art piece called "72 Hour Abduction" in which he confined himself to a basement room in a local restaurant. The project was in conjunction with the Red Thread Movement, which works to bring awareness to the 1.2 million people globally who are captured and enslaved. But Heredia said he only lasted six hours in his self-imposed prison.

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