Tucked away in BigTown Gallery’s Projects Gallery—that mysterious, enchanted space where artists arrive every few weeks to install their current work—is a heart. To enter the heart, first you don a white jacket, a lab coat kind of jacket, because you are, after all, entering a heart and must be very, very clean.
You part a paper curtain, step down onto a winding white path—your own yellow brick road—and suddenly find yourself quiet and alone, and you begin—to bend, to stretch, to peer, to gaze—at a blue petticoat rotating gently overhead, a tiny clown/leaf/butterfly clinging to its waist; a pink plastic hatbox, a fat metal zipper around its middle (what’s inside?); another hatbox filled with small plastic figures (men in tuxedos?); gloves, petticoats, handkerchiefs, and doilies pinned to a clothesline, all white, all stiff as if dipped in too much bleach; and a table set with a bird, tiny balls of thread, and a clear, plastic, box-shaped purse which holds egg-like objects and wadded up lace. Walking into this heart is like entering a cabinet of curiosities, those Renaissance collections of objects that someone saved, preserved, cataloged, and displayed as things of wonder—specimens, artifacts, or relics.
In “Walk Into My HeArt,” perhaps it is artist Deborah Bohnert’s heart you have been invited to explore, her memories, experiences, relationships you are discovering. Perhaps it is your own heart, where you have been granted permission to travel, dwell, and savor. As you walk through Bohnert’s subtlely intricate arrangement of hats, boxes, photos, and, well, lots more, your heart, as fragile as a butterfly perched on a leaf, as sweet as a stick wound with string, as still as a glove pinned to a line, begins to relax its beat, to recognize its own treasury, its own bounty of curiosities and marvels.
Wearing the white jacket makes you a scientist—one who experiments, tests, mounts evidence—but it also makes you a neutral guest, one who does not disturb the palette of pink and white infusing the heart. As a visitor in this delicate nest, you start afresh, without color, without baggage, and you find what is freeing and what is beautiful.
At the end of the installation is a comment box, an opportunity to articulate what your fledged heart is feeling, thinking, and wondering as you leave the walk through “My HeArt.” This is what I write, what I leave in the box of hearts:
Walk into my heart,
my mother, my grandmother,
rest on my white cloud.