Daughter’s display exhibits struggles with eating disorder

As part of National Teen Self-Esteem Month in May, the Windmill Library, 7060 W. Windmill Lane, launched an exhibit of “Eyes of the Soul,” featuring the work of Heidi Haugen, a Southern California woman who died in 2001 at age 30 of complications stemming from an eating disorder. The exhibit is scheduled to run through Sunday .

Sharon Haugen, Heidi’s mother, collected her daughter’s artwork and has been displaying it at high schools, universities and libraries in the region with the intention of educating people on the dangers of eating disorders.

“It’s very important to me to bring about awareness of anorexia and bulimia,” Haugen said. “You don’t really hear about it unless it’s a celebrity.”

It has not been easy for Haugen.

“It was a real battle after I found her dead that morning in March (2001),” she said. “… But I knew if I didn’t do anything in the community, it wouldn’t get talked about.”

Heidi was a prolific painter in the last two years of her life, according to her mother , and also wrote many poems about her struggles with the disorder.

“When she was really sick, she would say, ‘I want my work to be published. I want people to see it,’ ” Sharon Haugen said.

Heidi Haugen’s struggles are evident in many of the paintings displayed at the library. One painting entitled “Eating Man” portrays a grotesque, distorted image of a figure .

“They’re really whimsical, but they have a powerful meaning,” Sharon Haugen said of her daughter’s paintings. “She was hopeful and always trying to get better.”

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an organization that Haugen has worked with, it is estimated that in the United States , as many as 10 million women are struggling with eating disorders.

“People are beginning to take interest in (eating disorders),” Haugen said. “They’re talking about what they’re going through.”

Denise Alvarado, gallery services coordinator of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, met Sharon Haugen while installing an exhibit at the Laughlin Library and said she was instantly touched by Heidi Haugen’s story.

“It’s very moving,” Alvarado said of Heidi Haugen’s paintings. “There is no way you can’t be affected by it in some way.”

Alvarado added that the library district is actively trying to provide programs for teens.

“We’re very dedicated to the teenage population,” she said. “When they come and look at (Heidi’s) art, you can tell it’s had an impact on them.”

Sharon Haugen plans to continue showing her daughter’s art and telling her story to anyone who will listen.

“Heidi was extremely talented and could have done a lot of good things,” she said. “I just hope people will see the beauty in her.”

For more information on “Eyes of the Soul,” visit lvccld.org or call 507-6030.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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