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.Read More
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.