What: Seton Hill University’s Harlan Gallery presents Things Fall Apart, an exhibition of the works of Heather Harvey.

When: September 19 to October 17. An opening reception and artist talk will be held Thursday, September 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m.; Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

Where: Harlan Gallery, First Floor of Reeves Hall, Seton Hill University’s hilltop Campus

Who: Artist Heather Harvey creates site-specific installations and objects that straddle traditional boundaries between painting, drawing and sculpture. She is interested in hidden infrastructures and invisible ordering mechanisms – things like gravity, quantum physics, and radio waves, but also the human body, memory, and contradictory emotions like aversion and affection. Her work is suggestive of mental and emotional landscapes and internal unfolding thought processes. Harvey exploits materials’ inherent qualities to yield philosophical and mechanical insights into how the physical world operates and what it means to inhabit a body. Through minimal means and everyday materials the familiar is made strange again.

Harvey is an Assistant Professor and Studio Arts Coordinator at Washington College in Maryland. She received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has exhibited in venues including The Painting Center in New York City, the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts in Wilmington, Del., the Anderson Gallery in Richmond, Va., Vanderbilt University in Nashville, McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas, the William King Museum in Abingdon, Va., PLAYsPACE in San Francisco and the Claremont Graduate University Gallery in Los Angeles. Harvey has received several awards including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Artist Fellowship 2009-2010 and was a fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in 2003.

Background: The exhibition Things Fall Apart includes paper-based works and a site-specific installation. Both are iterations of Harvey’s walking art practice in which she surreptitiously collaborates with people who live within the range of her walks. She collects what remains of their broken objects and attempts to reassemble them. This is of course an impossible task and sooner or later she gives up and allows the aesthetic beauty and poetic potential of the fragments to speak for themselves. These dream-like visual poems play with fragility and how once broken something can never be made whole again. Yet in their fragmented state a different kind of beauty and order emerges.

The work is inherently gendered and performative. Harvey typically walks alone and at night as a way of reclaiming freedom and expanding on notions of studio practice, collaboration, and creative intentionality. The work is informed by Virginia Woolf and other artists, often women or otherwise marginalized, who draw on the inherent beauty of the ordinary, incidental stuff of daily life. These artists question the notion of artistic genius and undermine the stereotype of artist as lone visionary. Taking this cue, Harvey incorporates everyday materials and anonymous people into her work, elevating them into central aspects of her process.