Artist Mary Beth Heffernan has accomplished something that many fine artists strive to achieve; she has effectively conveyed a feeling of balance between life and death through an unparalleled visual medium.
Heffernan’s work is created through photogram, a process that essentially creates a photograph without a camera. However, what makes her approach especially intriguing is the choice of materials: actual human cremated remains.
From the artist’s description, “The tossed ashes are recorded as a negative presence. The scudding constellation of white dots memorializing its presence on the photographic paper. The celestial illusion is interrupted by the presence of a white disk–a body tag– underscoring the disarmingly literal presence of the body’s remains.”
Though a bit unsettling at first, after a few minutes of contemplation a strange sense of serenity seems to overcome your mind, body, and spirit. Truly, words cannot even begin to articulate the sensation the viewer experiences when looking at these pieces. Haunting graphite rubbings of figures adorn the walls of the gallery, filling the room with an eerie yet tranquil presence.
One has to say that these pieces speak to a certain kind of disposition that you cannot quite put your finger on. Whatever it is, it seems to be an amalgamation of the most primeval states of consciousness to the most elevated, undefinable thoughts and emotions one can conceive.
In Heffernan’s words, “Quintessence of Dust presents the body as tantalizingly present and irrevocably absent, an achingly transformed piece of work.” As an artist, I am envious, as a human being, awe-struck by this paramount example of fine art.
The show runs until August 11, come and experience this amazing work in person this Saturday during the Arts Crawl.
Mary Beth Heffernan is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work explores the interplay of corporeality and images. She earned her MFA in Photography at the California Institute of the Arts, and was a Studio Fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City. Heffernan is currently Professor of Sculpture, Photography and Interdisciplinary Art at Occidental College.
SPARC Gallery is located at 1121 Mission Street, South Pasadena, CA 91030. SPARC Gallery Hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5 pm or by appointment. Please call the Chamber office before arriving. 626-441-2339.