Our next Artist You Need To Know is Catherine Heard. She is an artist, arts writer and educator. She holds an undergraduate degree from OCADU, and a Master of Visual Studies degree from the University of Toronto.
Heard “is an interdisciplinary artist whose works integrate traditional textile techniques into sculpture and installation. Historical crafts such as embroidery become a foil for complex narratives and difficult subject matter, including histories of the body, war, and injustice. Her most recent works invite public participation, engaging the conversational dynamics of the quilting bee.” (from her site)
Heard’s Redwork: The Emperor of Atlantis is currently on view at Niagara Artist Centre in downtown St. Catharines during the Fall of 2023.
Her words (about what she has described as a ‘perpetually unfinished project’) : “Redwork: The Emperor of Atlantis camouflages embroideries of war, injustice, and resistance in a patchwork of antique redwork embroideries. Patriotic imagery, homey domestic scenes and fairy tale characters are juxtaposed with embroideries of traumatic events. Making this piece, I have been thinking about how history is recorded in the domestic sphere; about patriotism; about the stories we tell ourselves as we try to make sense of the world in which we live….New participants are welcome to request free embroidery kits from here.. At each exhibition venue, local histories will be marked with the creation of new patterns and community will be invited to participate in embroidery workshops.”
The first three images below are from a previous iteration of Redwork from 2015. The three below that are from a more recent body of work titled Phantom (and you can see video documentation of that artwork here).
Phantom is “a sculpture of a body that is three-quarters life size, juxtaposed with a projected animation. Based on an antique drawing of an anatomical dissection, the body is made from various organic materials including plant stems and leaves, which have been treated with barium to emphasize their details. The projection, situated like a reflected image in front of him, shows the figure’s beating heart, winded lungs and coursing veins. The figure evokes a range of emotions—visitors may be haunted or endeared by his small and fragile frame.” (the words of Melissa Bennett, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton)
Her artwork “interrogates the histories of the science, medicine and the museum. Simultaneously attractive and repulsive, her works delve into primal anxieties about the body.” (from here)
Catherine Heard has exhibited her work extensively, with notable shows in France, Denmark, Mexico, Canada and the US. Her artwork can be found in the permanent collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, The Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Art Gallery of Kamloops, and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.
The works below are Golem (2010 – 2018) and Grave (2012 – 13). Video documentation of Grave can be seen here. Golem was installed in the janitor’s closet of the boy’s bathroom, in the decommissioned Median High School (Medina, New York, in 2018) but was also on view in the exhibition Art School Dismissed at Shaw Street Public School in Toronto in 2010.
Curator and arts writer offered the following about Golem : “Catherine Heard did not even sweep the long-forgotten custodian’s closet where she installed Golem, the chilling form of a naked, mottled child staring with downcast eyes at the dead bird in her hand. This startling sculptural encounter represented the conflation of two potent historical images, ubiquitous in Victorian culture: sentimental portraits of a young girl holding a dead bird, and pictures illustrating abberant “spotted” children. Building on the artist’s image in “monstrous bodies,” the work provokes a visceral meditation on the uncomfortable and feral aspects of childhood that reveal our animal nature, and on the interplay between nature and culture.” (from here)
“I have been interested in the history of the body as a site of anxiety throughout my career, from the early 1990s to the present. I have explored this theme through images of the female body, the monstrous body, the doppelganger, the abject body and the dead body.” (from an interview for the World of Threads Festival)
Heard is an assistant professor at the School of Creative Arts of the University of Windsor and is represented by Birch Contemporary Gallery in Toronto and online by CMS Art Projects.
“For me, art is about putting questions out there, so with a piece like this, I am not trying to provide an answer — I am provoking people to think about what it means.”
Much more of Catherine Heard’s artwork can be enjoyed at her site : there is video documentation of several of her evocative installations, and links to some of her arts writing, as well. An article from CBC about Heard’s Redwork project can be read here.