Throughout her career, Valerie Hegarty has explored fundamental themes of American history and particularly the legacy of 19th-century American art, addressing topics such as colonization, slavery, Manifest Destiny, historical revisionism, nationalism and environmental degradation in her work. Elaborating upon visual references to the art-historical canon of North America, Hegarty repurposes the ideological tenets of such works into a critical examination of the American legacy—artistic and otherwise.
Featured in the artist's 2016 exhibition, American Berserk is a series of sculptures of George Washington rendered in topiary form, which play upon the cultural recapitulations of the founding father’s image that suffuse American culture. By rendering Washington as a topiary, Hegarty suggests a literal embedding of nationalism into landscape. Simultaneously, there is a diminution in stature from the hagiographic monumentalism of Mt. Rushmore to the modesty of domestic ornamentation or private souvenir. The faux-aristocratic pretensions of the topiary form succumb to consumerism and democratic ubiquity—from the grand estate to Disneyland to the suburban backyard.
Valerie Hegarty (b. 1967, Burlington, VT) is a painter, sculptor, ceramicist and installation artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Previous solo exhibitions include Malin Gallery (New York & San Francisco); the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities; Nicelle Beauchene (New York); Marlborough Gallery (New York); Locust Projects (Miami); Museum 52 (London); the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) and Guild & Greyshkul (New York). She has completed public commissions for the High Line in NYC and the Brooklyn Museum, and her work is featured in the permanent collections of the the Brooklyn Museum, the Perez Art Museum, the Saatchi Gallery, the Wadsworth Atheneum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Portland Museum of Art and the Tang Museum.
Hegarty received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has received grants and awards from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Tiffany Foundation, and Campari NY. Her works have been cited in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Artforum, The Wall Street Journal, Hyperallergic, Time Out - New York, W Magazine, American Art, Artnews, and ArtNet News. Hegarty is also an emerging writer: her short story "Cats vs. Cancer" was published in 2019 in the New England Review and was awarded a PEN Dau 2020 debut short-story prize.