b. 1967, United States

Valerie Hegarty Biography

Exploring issues of memory, place, and history, Valerie Hegarty creates paintings, sculptures, and installations from a range of materials including foam core, ceramics, and papier-mâché. Her practice considers the constant shift between materials, meanings, and process, often using deconstruction as a tool for creating and making.

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Early Years

Hegarty was born in Burlington, Vermont. As a young girl, Hegarty loved to make things. She liked to draw, paint, and sew, and often used found objects and scraps of material to craft things. In 1989, she took an art foundation class during her sophomore year at Middlebury College, where she discovered her passion for visual arts.

In 1995, Hegarty completed a BFA in Illustration at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. After graduation, she pursued a career in graphic arts despite not feeling entirely inspired by the commercial art field. During this period, Hegarty collected found objects and experimented with making mixed-media constructions. In 2002, the artist returned to higher education and completed an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002.

Valerie Hegarty Artworks

Valerie Hegarty favours the process of destruction over the practice of making. In several works, the artist focuses on the politics of the American myth, such as frontierism and colonialism. These paintings and sculptures imitate colonialist antiques that depict American nationalism, only to be demolished in a way that nods to their historical significance.

Niagara Falls (2007) and Cracked Canyon (2007) take inspiration from artists Frederic Church and Thomas Moran, two American masters of landscape painting. Hegarty uses materials like foam core, wood, and paper to reimagine the landscapes. She warps and cracks the artworks; Niagara Falls twists and pours from canvas to floor, while Cracked Canyon splits in two from floor to ceiling. Hegarty's process of destruction explores how art objects can transform into artefacts of history gone awry.

Fresh Start (The Covid Diaries Series) (2021) is a work inspired by Hegarty's personal journal entries during the COVID pandemic. Reflecting on personal trauma she experienced in the spring of 2020, Hegarty depicts familiar surroundings under attack by a number of external forces: the virus, political and social unrest, climate-related disasters, and systemic racism.

In Fresh Start, Hegarty imagines a Dutch Vanitas painting was stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and abandoned outside when the pandemic began. The canvas is rotting with dead leaves and vines weaving through it. Among the decay, new flowers blossom, transforming the work from a two-dimensional painting into an immersive sculpture. Hegarty's work juxtaposes death and destruction with hope and rebirth, capturing the impermanence of human existence.

Public Commissions

For Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches (2009), Hegarty created an artwork based on a 19th-century Hudson River School landscape painting. The work depicts a rural landscape with branches that appear to be growing out from the canvas. Hegarty's painting was exhibited outside, exposing it to the elements so that it slowly corroded and deteriorated over the course of its display.

The High Line Public Art Project commissioned Hegarty to create Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches for display on the High Line in New York from November 2009 to November 2010.

Awards and Accolades

In 2019, Hegarty was awarded the Maker-Creator Fellowship by the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. In 2017, she received the NYFA Fellowship Award in Sculpture. In 2016, Hegarty was granted the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.


Valerie Hegarty has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions. Selected solo exhibitions include Gone Viral, Malin Gallery, New York (2021); Valerie Hegarty: Secrets of the Sea, Cahoon Museum of American Art, Cotuit (2019); Bloom & Gloom, Burning in Water, New York (2018); American Berserk, University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery, Ann Arbor (2016); Coming Home, Korn Gallery, Drew University, Madison (2015); Alternative Histories, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2013); Figure, Flowers, Fruit, Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York (2012); Altered States, Marlborough Chelsea, New York (2012); View From Thanatopsis, Museum 52, London (2007); 12x12 Room, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2003).

Select group exhibitions include In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (2021); Nature Morte, The Hole, New York (2021); Fairyland, Mindy Solomon Gallery, New York (2021); The Stuff the Word is Made of, Drew University, Madison (2020); Seasonal Repression, Field Projects, New York (2020); Happy Agitation, Able Baker Contemporary, Portland (2020); New Thick, Royal Society of American Art, New York (2019); Nature's Nation: American Art and Environment, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2019); Black Mirror: Art as Social Satire, Saatchi Gallery, London (2018); Dorothy Saxe Invitational, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (2017); The Ecstasy of Mary Shelley, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles (2017).


Hegarty's work is featured in the public collections of a number of reputable galleries and museums. Select public collections include the Brooklyn Museum in New York, The Perez Art Museum in Miami, The Portland Museum of Art, and The Saatchi Collection in London.

Website and Instagram

Hegarty's website can be found here and her Instagram can be found here.

Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2022

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