History Twist in Brooklyn’s Period Rooms

Hegarty’s “activation” of the Cane Acres Plantation dining room: Still Life with Peaches, Pear, Grapes and Crows; Still Life with Watermelon, Peaches and Crows; and Table Cloth with Fruit and Crows. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Hegarty’s “activation” of the Cane Acres Plantation dining room including Still Life with Watermelon, Peaches and Crows. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum’s Period Rooms are again the focus of a rip-roaring, history-tearing, upside-down interpretation by an installation artist. Go before December 1 to see what’s happened to three rooms up on the museum’s Fourth Floor in Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories.

The dining room from the South Carolina’s Cane Acres Plantation is alive with dozen or so papier-mâché crows that are chowing down on the faux watermelons and peaches that you imagine to have been so beautifully arranged on the long, grand table.

Peering into either of the two plantation doorways, it’s disconcerting to see how the delicacies are being ripped apart and strewn about. The fruit literally pops out of the frames in this cross-referenced mash-up of Hitchcock terror, racial segregation issues, and classic still life painting.

Hegarty’s Pendleton carpet in the Cupola House parlor.

Hegarty’s Pendleton carpet is growing in the Cupola House parlor.

See how Hegarty created it all out of wire, glue, foil, foam, and everything else you can purchase at Michael’s on the Brooklyn Museum’s Flickr feed.

She was equally ambitious in two other rooms from the Cupola House, originally built in Edenton, North Carolina: The 1725 parlor room focuses on a visual “conversation” between General George Washington and Pawnee Chief Sharitarish, featuring a Native American-style Pendleton parlor rug that is “growing” grass, flowers, and roots to make you think about what happened to the native culture over the last few centuries.

She kicks the Manifest Destiny discussion right where it hurts in the Cupola House “hall” (where guests socialized) by letting two Pileated and Downy Woodpeckers have their way with everything valuable in the room, including (a reproduction of) Thomas Cole’s 1846 painting The Pic-Nic. Nature is getting out of hand.

The Downey Woodpeckers take over the Cupola House hall. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

The Downey Woodpeckers take over the Cupola House hall. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Get over to Brooklyn and encounter a new twist on what you were taught in grade school history, but watch out for Hegarty’s flying bullets and birds.

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5 thoughts on “History Twist in Brooklyn’s Period Rooms

  1. Very cool! You want to have all previous illusions about the beautiful lifestyles lived on antebellum Southern plantations blown out of the water? Go see “12 Years A Slave”. I will never look at that period the same way again…..it’s what Roots would be, if Roots was filmed now….

    • Great insight, Chris, and you’re right. Seeing Brooklyn’s installation — full of provocation, is not as gut-wrenching as what’s on the big screen. Thanks for sharing your reaction with us!

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