Heide Hatry's show at Ubu Gallery is a series of portraits made from cremated ashes based on photographs of the deceased selected by family members or loved ones who have provided her with their ash remains. These are objects made in the spirit of the Consolatio, the ancient tradition of honoring the dead and consoling the mourners.
The resulting portraits presented in deep shadow-box frames, have a surface both softer and more active than the photo. Granular, like rough cut granite. But these portraits are not "painted", the very tedious, time consuming process uses tiny "dust" particles on wax to create a "mosaic." The solid characteristics of the 'thing' contrasting with the fleeting glimpse of the photo.
She has also released a book publication, Icons in Ash, (which accompanies the show) in which twenty-seven contributing authors, including Siri Hustvedt, Rick Moody and Steven Pinker, have offered a variety of takes on death and memory.
There is a sense of "miraculous intervention" or extraordinary love, as the artist brings her presence to her painstaking and not ungruesome work. In creating these delicate tributes to the presence of a beloved in absence, Hatry emphasizes the corporeal as a way of restating the imprimatur of the body in art, even in death.
Perhaps in the development of the child the image comes before the word. Before "The Order of the Father" there is "the Body of the Mother'." Although there is nothing outside of language to describe it, the bodily attributes of the image are instinctual for girls because the potential for absolute creativity is already growing inside of them. From Karen Finley to Yoko Ono female artists reinforce the physical in their art.
But from the beginning Hatry's art has referred to the corpse. Her raw material is unanimated. She has created sculptures covered in pig skin. In another series she carved animal parts into flowers and photographed them. The flesh of the deceased becomes a primal material. Like 'Bone Black' the pigment used to render the collaborators and foes in the hunt, on the walls of Chalet and Lascaux.
Hatry creates an imago of the departed, using their ashes to bring back a sense of permanence to the evanescent memory recorded in the photograph. This is reinforced by the handling of the burnt remains as pigments. There is a slow, methodical feel to them. As if the act of making them was a lament. - Milree Hughes
The show is up until March 7th at Ubu Gallery, 416 E. 59th Street in NYC
Mr. Hughes was born in North Wales in 1960, son of an Anglican priest. He began making art on the computer in 1998 in NYC.