Brooklyn artist Valerie Hegarty created 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 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 is the setting for one of Hegartys installations. This intervention includes 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 also examines 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 also features 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 Hegartys other interventions in the Cupola House are 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 introduces two still life paintings of fruit with three-dimensional crows attached. She also replaced one of the existing mirrors with her own reproduction, to which a crow has also been attached. Additional crows have been 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.