Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Visual Poetry of Harriet Bart

I work with words. I work with things.
. . .
I believe in the alchemy of the word,
the iconography of text,
the labyrinth of the book.
~ Artist Harriet Bart

Widely exhibited cross-disciplinary conceptual artist Harriet Bart (b. 1941) draws her inspiration from the written word, which she often combines with bronze, stone, wood, glass, metal, or everyday and found objects to create what she calls "visual poetry": often moving narratives that show us how to carry the past into our present and future by marking experience through memory or remembrance and commemoration. Her re-purposing as art of books that otherwise would be consigned to trash reaffirms how words, when preserved, let us tell ourselves stories again and again. Her Requiem, for example, is a series of scrolls on which are inscribed the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq; her Drawn in Smoke recalls the deaths in 1911 of 146 garment workers in New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire; her deeply eloquent Eulogy, a mixed media piece, evokes "the presence of what cannot be communicated" with blood-color-stained pages from a book Bart has placed on a vintage litter (used on a battle field to remove the wounded); the installation includes a used army gear bag and a stack of sacred texts. Bart's work is at once personal and universal in its meaning. Hear her talk about her art in the Minnesota Original video feature below.

A founding member of Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bart is a curator and lecturer as well. She is represented by Babcock Galleries, New York City. Her work is in the collections of the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Miami's Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, and other public and private collections.

Also Of Interest

Harriet Bart's Artist's Books

Harriet Bart's Drawn in Smoke - Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Centenary (2010), comprising 160 drawings, created with smoke and soot, that bear the names of the 146 garment workers who died in the New York City sweatshop fire.

Harriet Bart's Garment Register (2001), an artist's book based on an installation that honors "the lives of generations of anonymous women at the heart of the fabric of modern America", at Joshua Heller Rare Books.

Harriet Bart's Plumb Bob (2009) at The Center for Book Arts, in which, the book's colophon says, Bart's "[c]oncept, text, and images. . . are true to her interest in the transformative use of ordinary materials to express the alchemy of ideas." The fine press book, nominated for a 2002 Minnesota Book Award, includes pages of a found ledger of women's names and dues paid. (More about this book is here.)

Harriet Bart's Winter Projects, published by Walker Art Center Library.

Harriet Bart's Without Words, A Reading Room (1998) at Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, Missouri

Harriet Bart on FaceBook

Image Gallery at Babcock Galleries

Britt Aamodt, "More Than Words: The Re-Purposed Book", Minnesota Artists, September 10, 2009

Traffic Zone: Harriet Bart (Video Interview, 2010)


Hannah Stephenson said...

Sheesh, I just love her. I enjoyed this video and may share it with my art students....I like what she says about creating systems and seeing the objects around you in new ways.

Ruth said...

I'm so taken with her dogtag piece! What an inspiration she is.