Valerie Hegarty’s American Berserk is an unceremonious unseating of traditional Americana through ceramic sculpture, a surprisingly colorful and quirky reimagination of a rotting, cracking America.
American symbols and their histories are questioned through Hegarty’s careful placement of works in and around each other. A tree branch pierces through a gallery wall to spear a portrait of George Washington straight through the nose, a confrontational installation placed near ceramic topiaries comical in their quietness next to not-so-subtle Pinocchio imagery.
In Hegarty’s presentation, the rotting of fruits is a colorful, saturated affair rife with energy; cave-like apple cores are covered by bright red skins, bananas are open and splayed out as they writhe into tongue shapes, and watermelons–so many watermelons–are gouged out to be stuffed into disconcerting smiles, shaped and twisted into outstretched jaws and rib cages.
Muted tones are also found in the exhibition, but only when nestled into bold formations. Huge ceramic conch shells curl and unfurl into traditional, heavy-set picture frames, with the paintings they encase distorted into the central spirals. A wooden window frame at the exhibition entrance is draped in floral-print cloth, but the fabric melts down the pane as the unstable and rickety wood splits into pieces.
Hegarty, in her navigation of both two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional sculpture, masterfully puts American art and lore on a pedestal to be viewed in all its misshapen glory.
American Berserk will be on display in the Institute for Humanities Common Room until December 21.