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Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories

DATES May 17, 2013 through December 1, 2013
  • Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories Three special projects in the Brooklyn Museum period rooms [i]
    Alternative Histories, by Brooklyn artist Valerie Hegarty, is the second in a series of “activations,” or installations, in which artists are invited to place site-specific works in the Museum’s period rooms in order to forge new connections between the past and the present. Hegarty’s artworks, on display here, in the parlor and hall of the Cupola House, and around the corner, in the Cane Acres Plantation dining room, address aspects of American history that she feels are missing from the rooms as they are usually installed.

    In the Cupola House parlor, Hegarty has inserted two unusual portraits and a rug alluding to the displacement of Native Americans during the European colonization of North America. Her portrait of George Washington, based on a painting by Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), could be seen as her response to what she calls Washington’s attempt to “intimidate and subdue the Indians,” while the second portrait, based on a painting of the Pawnee Chief Sharitarish by Charles Bird King (1785–1862), suggests Native Americans’ resistance and resilience. The rug recalls nineteenth-century American blankets that reflect stereotypical Native American patterns, many created by the Pendleton Woolen Mills, which sent its artisans to live with Native Americans.

    In the Cupola House hall, Hegarty has replaced some of the furniture and dishes with her own, while adding her version of The Pic-Nic (1846) by Thomas Cole (1801–1848). All of these objects are riddled with holes. Who or what is responsible for the holes? The two woodpeckers perhaps? Or the violence associated with colonization and war alluded to in the parlor?

    You can see another example of Hegarty’s longstanding interest in examining American history in her painting Fallen Bierstadt (2007), on display in American Identities on the fifth floor.
  • Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories Three special projects in the Brooklyn Museum period rooms [ii]
    Alternative Histories, by Brooklyn artist Valerie Hegarty, is the second in a series of “activations,” or installations, in which artists are invited to place site-specific works in the Museum’s period rooms in order to forge new connections between the past and the present. Hegarty’s artworks, on display here, in the Cane Acres Plantation dining room, and around the corner, in the parlor and hall of the Cupola House, address aspects of American history that she feels are missing from the rooms as they are usually installed.

    Here Hegarty has added two still-life “paintings”—actually trompe l’oeil sculptures—that appear to have come to life, spilling fruit onto the lace-covered dining room table, where it provides a feast for a flock of crows. These works, which resemble vanitas paintings, allude to mortality and introduce a suggestion of passing time to a room that might otherwise appear frozen in a particular moment. They also add an element of disquiet and violence that belies the room’s elegant appearance, suggesting the system of enslaved labor and oppression behind plantation society.

    You can see another example of Hegarty’s longstanding interest in examining American history in her painting Fallen Bierstadt (2007), on display in American Identities on the fifth floor.
  • December 1, 2012: Brooklyn artist Valerie Hegarty will create a series of installations in two of the period rooms of the Brooklyn Museum, the latest in a series of such interventions by several artists. On view May 17 through December 1, 2013, Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories will address themes of colonization, the idea of Manifest Destiny, and repressed history.

    The ground floor of the Cupola House, built around 1725 in Edenton, North Carolina, now installed in the Brooklyn Museum, features a parlor with elaborate Prussian blue woodwork that will be the setting for one of Hegarty’s installations. This intervention will include a floor work consisting of a deteriorating Native American patterned rug that appears to have grass, roots, and flowers growing from distressed areas. Through this rug Hegarty will also examine the history of the Pendleton wool company. Blankets produced by Pendleton featured patterns that came to be associated with Native American culture but that were, in fact, an English appropriation of what were believed to be Native American.

    The room will also feature two portraits by Hegarty in the style for which she is best known: paintings after classic American masterpieces that appear to be damaged almost beyond recognition and are created from canvas with portions composed of papier-mâché, plaster wrap, fabric, and glue.

    A portrait in classical style of George Washington appears as if it had been damaged by fire, causing the upper portion to melt onto the couch below, where it become three-dimensional and life-size. Another portrait of an Indian chief is based on a work by Charles Bird King, who was commissioned in the nineteenth century to paint portraits for an Indian museum in Washington, D.C. In the Hegarty version, the flesh of the body turns into a waterfall cascading over the fireplace, alluding to violence against Native Americans.

    Among Hegarty’s other interventions in the Cupola House will be a paper mache pileated woodpecker and a number of items riddled with bullet holes, including a silver dish set, a hanging mirror pierced, a side table, a dining table with chairs, and a large silver bowl.

    The dining room of the Cane Acres Plantation, from a house built in the South Carolina low country northwest of Charleston between 1789 and 1806, is a regional reinterpretation of eighteenth-century elements characteristic of the Federal period. In it Hegarty will introduce two still life paintings of fruit with three-dimensional crows attached. She will also replace one of the existing mirrors with her own reproduction, to which a crow will also be attached. Additional crows will be placed on the window frame and chairs, on a dining table full of food, on a pile of food on the floor, and on a side serving table.

    Born in Burlington, Vermont, Valerie Hegarty received a BA from Middlebury College in Vermont, a BFA from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, most recently Cosmic Collisions at the Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in New York and Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches, a High Line Public Art Project in New York. It has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions, among them His Wife and Her Lover at Primary Projects in Miami, Perfectly Damaged at the Derek Eller Gallery, New York, and Bitches Brew, Gallery Pulsen, Copenhagen. Hegarty has received several awards and residencies, including from the Lower Manhattan Culture Council, Pollock Krasner and Rema Hort Mann Foundations grants, and a Yaddo Residency.

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Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories