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Campaign Chest, 2018 mixed media Collection of the artist After deciding to gift her archive and extensive body of work to the Weisman Art Museum, Bart began to assemble a small body of “evidence” that would remain with her family. This object’s title references a type of furniture made to house a person’s most essential belongings during travel. Bart’s inspiration comes from Marcel Duchamp’s Box in a Valise (1931–1941), a series of suitcase-like boxes containing miniature replicas of the conceptual artist’s work. Her “chest” contains studies and fragments from larger projects, rather than replicas she made after the fact. It speaks to her tendency to introduce elements drawn from her past work to new contexts and ideas, a physical expression of a curious mind. This object is a kind of miniature of the artist’s studio, a carefully considered space where Bart experiments with ever-changing arrangements and juxtapositions of objects from different moments in time and stages in her career.
Autobiography, 2011 mixed media Collection of the artist This visual poem takes the form of seventy glass test tubes in a single horizontal line. Bart distills memories from each year of her life—up until the year she created the work—into a small vessel. The tubes suggest a scientific method of selection, while their simple shapes, even spacing, and repetition references Minimalism, a trend in sculpture and painting towards reductive and repeated forms that emerged in the 1950s. But their contents reveal Bart’s emotional investment in the physical world. Bart described the piece as “a self-portrait of sorts,” but it speaks to her imaginative approach to traditional art historical genres. As the title suggests, she often filters visual art practices through a literary lens. The pages of the ledger feature imprints of each of the seventy corks in one column, and a one-word, poetic description of the tube’s content of in another.
Abracadabra Universe, 2007 vinyl text on board, wood, gold leaf, chemistry flask, Bunsen burner, altered book Collection of the artist This work represents Bart’s belief in the alchemical power of words. A Medieval predecessor to chemistry, alchemy involves distilling things to their material essence and then subjecting those essences to transformational processes. A metal Bunsen burner rests on The Universe, a 1987 collection of essays that explore the cosmos through the lenses of science, fiction, and art. The burner holds a glass laboratory flask filled with gold leaf. A rubber tube connects the apparatus above to the interior pages of the book below, leaving us to imagine that it is the interior world of the book that has powered a transformation of base metal to gold. Hanging next to these objects is a framed print featuring the word ABRACADABRA in red lettering. In keeping with ancient tradition, the word repeats with one letter diminished per line. The inverted triangle represents belief in the word’s power to diminish harm with each incantation, with the bottom of the triangle representing the point where the harmful forces disappear. According to ancient and Medieval physicians who prescribed Abracadabra amulets—physical objects worn on the body—the word offered personal protection and medicinal cure when it took written form.
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