Interior designers love to delve into the power of objects; their provenance and materiality, power to transform a space, and ability to invoke memory. In her new exhibition at NewStudio Gallery in St. Paul, the Minneapolis-based, international artist Harriet Bart works with every day and found objects in her installation Reckoning, an exquisite assemblage that asks viewers to reflect on time and memory.
Harriet Bart: Reckoning opened on Saturday, October 8, and will be open until Saturday, December 3. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. In addition to Reckoning, the exhibition includes numerous works available for purchase: two of them constructed from material Bart used in Reckoning, and 16 framed pieces incorporating handmade paper, text, and gold leaf.
Bart creates evocative content through the narrative power of objects, the theater of installation, and the intimacy of artist’s books. At the core of her work is a deep and abiding interest in the personal and cultural expression of memory. Using bronze, stone, and gold leaf; wood and paper; books and words, Bart signifies a site, marks an event, and draws attention to imprints of the past as they live in the present.
For Reckoning, Bart created a tableau that evokes memory, archetype, and symbol. “I was captivated by NewStudio Gallery’s space, low ceilings, and sense of compression,” Bart says. The installation includes a table setting that “reflects on the past, what we’ve had, and what we might lose,” she explains. In front of the table is an array of harrow disks, each of which holds an element of significance: an animal bone resembling a mask, a stone similar to an axe handle, a model of barn Bart constructed, a burl from a tree, a bronze-casting of a soapstone owl. Above every disk hangs a plumb bob. Under Bart’s gaze and through her aesthetic, every object in the installation has undergone transformation. Other works, some available for purchase, are also included in the exhibition.
“We live in a broken world,” Bart says. “Reckoning is a cautionary tale. The narratives I create are told through objects and images. Some of the objects in Reckoning are relics of the past; others, artifacts of the present. Objects in this installation also are from the natural world, collected cultural commodities, or created or altered in the studio.”
Beginning as a textile artist, Bart was a cofounding member of WARM (the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota, one of the first feminist art collectives in the United States) and of Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art in Minneapolis, where she has her studio. Bart’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and Germany, and she has completed more than a dozen public art commissions in the United States, Japan, and Israel. She has received fellowships from the Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Yaddo, NEA Arts Midwest, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Since 2000, she has published more than a dozen artist books and numerous mixed-media works. She has won three Minnesota Book Awards, most recently in 2015 for Ghost Maps.