Harriet Bart’s mirrored and matte surfaced fragments recall pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that never quite fit together, inviting examination of gender archetypes and the way fragments speak to the absence of the whole.
Bart received her formal training in textile arts and architectural tapestry, a purposeful choice to assert the relevance of what has long been considered “feminine labor.” In pondering minimalism, an arena dominated by male artists since its inception, Bart translates curvilinear fragments of feminine garment patterns into minimalist objects. In doing so, she allows these fluid shapes to find roots in the body. Like clothing itself, worn to both cover the body and express its being, Bart references the way our inner selves are outwardly expressed but only inwardly experienced.
These undulating shapes in blackened steel are installed as a stoic constellation on the wall, forming the armor of Bart’s “strong silent type.” The same shapes in chromed steel are installed on the floor, a shattered pond for the contemporary Narcissus. As one leans over the pond, the body and the being fracture. Ten slim mirrors on an adjacent wall allow a respite from ruminating on the shapes of the body – allowing only a sliver view of one’s eyes, into the proverbial soul.
A black tapestry titled PENUMBRA exists in dialogue with REMNANTS, anodized aluminum shelves encasing spools of thread, castaways of the traditionally feminine, painstaking art form of weaving thread into cloth. In NOTION, a spool of thread becomes biomorphic in its partially used state, sitting preserved on an industrial gear underneath a protective bell jar.
Bart has juxtaposed our desire to project ourselves with our need to protect ourselves. The blackened steel shapes are a shield from reflection and from the gaze of others. She suggests there is power and significance in both - in visibility - the process of identity construction, and, in the resistance to false dichotomies and expected roles.
In this body of work, Bart delineates the polarity of gendered traits and trades into a commentary on what it means to construct our authentic selves. She offers these altered mirrors of the body, split into pieces and parts, the armor of selfhood in contrast to the reflective nature of identity.