Bedford-Stuyvesant artist Heather Hart is building a full-sized house roof for a solo show opening next month. When it’s done, it will look like it was torn off a house and mysteriously dropped from the sky.
The project is more than Hart’s latest off-beat artistic venture: She was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer just after museum officials picked her as one of five Brooklyn artists to put on first-ever exhibitions in a major museum.
“My oncologist and acupuncturist told me it’s very important to continue my art,” said Hart, 36, as she strapped on a tool bag and pulled on pink work gloves to guard against slivers. “It’s very healing to keep your passions going.”
Chemo made her bald, but Hart is pushing forward as the clock ticks towards an April 12 opening night. This week, she and her carpenter cousin are setting up dormers for three windows and constructing a faux-brick chimney.
“The noise of the drill echoes in here like in a church,” said Hart, whose father was a carpenter who taught her construction. “It’s strange to build inside. I love it.”
Despite five surgeries and chemotherapy that ran from October until last week, she’s now strong enough to wield power drills and a circular saw. Because she’s not allowed to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds with her right hand, she hired her cousin to help her.
“I worried at the beginning,” said Hart, who has turned real-life objects into offbeat art in the past by putting crocheted covers on park benches, books, subway poles, even replicas of guns. “But I have an army of friends. If I had to sit in a sleeping bag and point to what needed to be done, I would have.”
So she can pay her cousin for his work, she raised $7,500 on Kickstarter, completing the fund-raising campaign on Monday.
Most museum pieces are strictly look but don’t touch. Hart is making her asphalt-shingled roof for visitors to climb on, or lie down on and watch the clouds through an overhead skylight. They will be able to duck under it to visit an attic that will have some surprises in store.
“Instead of coming to see a picture on the wall,’ said Hart, “I want people from the community to come have an experience, and take away a memory.”
From the New York Daily News
Photo of Heather Hart by Will Smith