Calling all Heathers

What is a Heather? A flower, a color, and sometimes an artist. Heathers in the latter category are coming together to create an exhibit for Future Tenant, a Penn Avenue art gallery. The exhibit, titled “I-am-a-Heather,” aims to explore the influence of naming while showcasing a collection of Heather-created art.

“We’re looking for art by or about Heathers,” said Heather Mallak, the exhibit curator and creative director. Mallak is in the process of recruiting 12 Heathers to submit their art to the exhibit. She hopes to reach artists of diverse ages from Pittsburgh and beyond.

“We wanted to open it up to the Heathers in Pittsburgh first,” said communications coordinator Heather Jarrett, adding that the exhibit has already found several artists. Now, Jarrett is preparing to broaden the exhibit’s marketing to reach cities in and out of the country. “We want to make the show as diverse as possible,” she said.

Heathers contributing to the exhibit do not have to be artists by profession, Mallak said. “I think it’s fair to say [we
want art by] someone who’s expressive.” Mallak plans to use the submitted art to make 12 oversized prints, in addition to creating a flower-filled “field of Heathers” using Heather-owned clothing.

Still, “I-am-a-Heather” extends to artists by other names as well. Mallak found a Chicago band called Baby Teeth (with members Abraham, Jim, and Peter) with an EP called For the Heathers, full of Heather-themed songs. Enthusiastic about the exhibit, the band will perform in Pittsburgh to coincide with the exhibit’s opening in April. “And this was just through Googling,” Mallak said.

Even more than artists, Mallak and Jarrett are passionate about welcoming visitors of all kinds. “We printed out [promotional] cards that say ‘Art for anyone with a name,’” Jarrett said. “We’re going to have a high level of audience participation at the show itself.” “I-am-a-Heather” will include interactive computers for visitors to look up the origins of their own names, along with a giant “Hello my name is” sign to write on. “There are things that will allow people to leave their mark on the show,” she said.

“I think the overall experience will be interesting for everyone,” added Heather Powell, the first Heather to sign up as a contributing artist.
Part of the exhibit’s appeal is its examination of naming, a subject that all visitors can relate to. “In addition to the artwork itself, it’s important that the artist tells a story about her name,” Jarrett said.

Powell associates her name with a Scottish myth about a pining widow. In the myth, the widow’s tears turn a string of purple heather flowers to white, making them lucky.

Along with such personal stories, the exhibit should inspire Heathers and others to consider how naming might affect — or predict — character.

“When I hear that somebody is named Heather, I don’t think

of physical characteristics,” Jarrett said. “I assume them to be slightly edgier, slightly more outgoing.”

“Heathers love themselves,” Powell added. “[Creating this exhibit] seems like kind of a Heather thing to do.”

Mallak proposed the “I-am-a-Heather” exhibit after Future Tenant invited her to do a show. The gallery, known for its eccentric art, should offer an appropriate venue for such an open-ended exhibit.

“It seems to be that the Future Tenant mission statement is to house a creative experiment,” Jarrett said. “And I think that is perfect for the Heather show.”