Heidi Norton “The Grass Has Eyes”
Curated by Claudine Ise
Comfort Station- Logan Square | 2579 N Milwuakee
Opening: May 2nd, 6-10p
Public Hours: Every Sunday of the month 11a-2p
Heidi Norton: The Grass has Eyes
We are undone. The mountains crumble
Beneath our feet. Our wave of earth subsides.
A little time and man shall stride no more,
His thighs having wasted with little using.
We are the bones for distant questioning.”
This was his parable, and it was spoken
Upon a mountainside.
—Excerpted from the poem “Artifact” by James Still
Heidi Norton’s exhibition “The Grass Has Eyes” is a site-specific engagement with the Logan Park comfort station, a historic site of alternating public and private functions that in turn express the fluctuating utopian/mundane aspirations of the communities who have used it over the years. Built in 1926/27 as a temporary oasis for transit commuters, the comfort station was boarded up sometime around the 1940s and served as a storage shed for lawnmowers and other garden maintenance tools until 2010, when it was transformed into a multi-disciplinary arts center and vibrant public gathering space known as Comfort Station. Norton’s exhibition imaginatively re-purposes the Comfort Station once more by recasting it as a cabin-like heterotopian space whose interior floors are partially lined with grass sod in patterns recalling aerial views of mountaintop removal mining, a process in which the summit or ridge of mountain land is removed for the purpose of extracting coal. The show also includes UV-sensitive embroidered botanical tapestries inspired by Charles Darwin’s plant studies, an idiosyncratic “patchwork quilt” combining photographic images, plant materials, plastic tarp, and sheep and alpaca wool, and an eerily compelling ambient sound piece that nods to Peter Thompkin’s Secret Life of Plants.
Simultaneously evoking the cozy environs of a family homestead, not unlike the one in which Norton herself spent her childhood years; the remote hideouts of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Breaking Bad’s Walter White; and the meditative mountain retreats of hermit-hippy loners like James Still, the poet, folklorist, and author of The Wolfpen Notebooks who was nicknamed “The Man in the Bushes” by his Appalachian neighbors, Norton’s environment is charged with affective uncertainty—at once comfortingly familiar and tinged with a subtle sense of dread