Satirically Kitsch


Valerie Hegarty, Watermelon Tongue 1, 2016, glazed ceramics

In Robin Schers’ article for ART News entitled, “Americana Gone A Bit Weird: Valerie Hegarty on Her New Ceramic Still Lifes” the author interviewed artist Valerie Hegarty about her new exhibition, American Berserk, that will be up until December 5. During the interview, Scher asks about the title of her show, which uniquely enough, the title of her show comes from a “Philip Roth novel American Pastoral.” According to the article, it is featuring a suite of watercolors and four series of ceramic sculptures, American Berserk is the first solo exhibition of the artist’s artwork in New York. What is even more unusual about this show is that the medium that she uses. She is known for making her pieces out of papier-mâché. However, recently she decided that she wasn’t going to make sculptures anymore out of papier-mâché and just began doing watercolor paintings. Hegarty didn’t stop there, though. One day she was trying to make a painting bigger, she realized that is would be better as a sculpture, so she took up a ceramics class and morphed the two ideas together.

Scher tells us that throughout Hegartys’ career she has explored themes of American history and particularly the legacy of 19th-century American art in her work. An example of this, which is discussed by Scher in this article, is George Washington on a Horse as a Topiary. The inspiration for this pieces and many of her other works, came from her immigrant family, but more so her father. When she was growing up, their house was filled with “patriotic ephemera.” According to Hegarty, as she got older, she came to the realization that most of the items that her family owned “were fake, made out of plastic, or, in the case of some idyllic historical landscape paintings, purchased from the local hardware store. From those realizations, the seeds of Hegarty’s future art practice grew.” Hegarty has always been interested in transformation and as you can tell from just the title of this article itself, Hegarty likes to use “satirical means to construct” her pieces. She likes to describe her pieces as “morbid answer to kitschy centerpieces of yesteryear, now robbed of their evergreen freshness.”

Robin Scher interview with Valerie Hegarty was truly interesting to me. Learning about Hegarty and her life and how she got her inspiration for her work is completely unique and different from past artists that I have learned about. Hegarty comparing her work as a morbid, satirical version of kitsch, is brilliant. Kitsch “is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons.” That is exactly what Hegarty makes, except warped and not as cliché or cheesy, if you will. One artist, that I could sort of compare Hegartys’ work to is Karlis Vitols, Heathen, 2006. I say this because his works are considered kitsch, but they are not the normal type of kitsch, such as Frederick Dielman’s, The Widow. From this interview you also learn that Hegarty plans on sticking with ceramics because she says “it is a good fit” and she feels like she can be herself more with that medium. I can relate to this because I have worked with clay. It is easier to work with, even though really messy at times. You can mold and warp it into any shape or form that your imagination thinks of.

I loved learning about Valerie Hegartys’ work and wish that I could go see her pieces in person to be able to truly appreciate what she has to offer. Maybe one day I will get the chance to do that, but for now I will just have to admire it from afar. I related a lot with this artist, because she has a similar style of art to my very own. The one difference is that I show my style through Graphic Design and she does her’s through ceramics, watercolor, and previously papier-mâché. It just goes to show you, no matter what your medium of choice is to create your artwork, you relate to other artists in one way or another.

-Chelsea Joffrion





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