Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Heide Hatry's Provocative Flowers

Heide Hatry is not a household name, but the New York-based German artist's reputation is blossoming. She has smartly positioned herself at the intersection of the art world and popular culture and, as a result, is of particular interest to me, convinced as I am that the fine arts need mass reach (if not necessarily mass appeal -- see Thomas Kinkade) in order to play the vital cultural role they're intended to.

Heide Hatry, right, with Paris Hilton at the Guggenheim Museum
In September, Hatry performed "Schrodinger's Cat" at Lady Gaga's Guggenheim Museum perfume launch. Although Gaga's arty public appearances and carefully cultivated persona evidence how readily pop culture co-opts and/or draws inspiration from the fine arts, most people view Gaga as a pop star, not an artist. Hatry, on the other hand, is always identified as the latter, so when she is photographed rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paris Hilton or her work is written about by the scientist and popular writer Steven Pinker, I'm heartened. The art world isn't usually so accessible.

Naysayers might dismiss Hatry as the art world equivalent of a shock jock, insisting the popular attention she has received is only the result of her pushing our buttons. Certainly provocation plays a part, but Hatry has so far managed to balance titillation with thoughtful questions. (Arguably, Damien Hirst managed to do the same for a time...before he jumped the preserved shark.)