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You’re more than an observer at the DMG’s new exhibit

Artist Heather Hart talks about her installation piece during opening night of Northern Oracle, a new mixed media exhibit showcasing at Doris McCarthy Gallery. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Most artists want their work to connect with people, but Heather Hart would like you to do much more than that. Her installation at the Doris McCarthy Gallery invites you to walk on the roof and have a seat.

Unlike art exhibitions that prohibit people from touching, Hart wants visitors to play around and contribute to her pieces.

“I’m always wanting people to be more responsible in viewing artwork instead of being passive [where] you walk in, you see things, and you leave,” says Hart.

“Contemporary art galleries are not always seen as the most friendly places, and Heather’s work brings a significant tone of welcome,” adds Ann MacDonald, director and curator of the DMG.

Stationed in the centre of one of the gallery rooms is a life-sized rooftop, which appears to emerge from the floor. Visitors can climb, walk or sit on the sculpture as they please.

Surrounding the rooftop are mixed media drawings which are also interactive. You can contribute to the completion of these drawings by pressing gold leaf onto them in exchange for a wish.

The exhibit couldn’t be better timed, as it opens just days before Black History Month. From her rooftop sculpture inspired by plantation homes to the African-American figures in her collages, Hart’s work references black history, civil rights movements and her own genealogy.

She also says the rooftop sculpture represents to her the physical and metaphorical idea of “liminal space”: the space between the house and the sky, danger and safety, and the private and public. It also signifies the black community’s reclamation of that space and their power.

“Heather’s work engages with afro-futurism, which is this beautiful, wild concept of imagination and magic, where time can collapse and you can visit the past, the present and future and to shape a new reality,” says MacDonald.

Though Hart’s work alludes to black history and her personal life, she says people can interpret the work through their own perspectives.

“[My artwork] is more about leaving an opening for people to bring their own frames of reference and seeing where that narrative can be diverged from what I brought,” says Hart. “I would hope that people would pull out whatever their perception leads them to.”

Northern Oracle will be at the DMG until April 1, 2017.

© University of Toronto Scarborough