Expressions of Home: As seen through the artists' eyes

Home is where the heart is, where our lives unfold — and where imagination takes flight


Our spaces have taken on a new importance in recent years. “Home,” in all its variations, has inspired us — and renewed us. Heckscher Museum of Art explores the spaces we inhabit in its latest offering, “Raise the Roof: The Home in Art,” on view through March 2024.

The exhibit — featuring more than 50 works — reflects the many meanings of home, as it delves into how artists creatively define life at home.

“This exhibit came out of the pandemic,” says Justyce Bennett, the museum’s curatorial assistant. “The idea of home really shifted. It became our office space, our leisure place, our everything. The same thing happened with artists, it became their studios. Over the past four years, we’ve deepened our understanding of what home looks like.”

From that shift in how we live, an exhibit evolved.

“The majority of the artworks on view were created before the pandemic, demonstrating the central role that our homes have always played in our lives and in art,” says curator Karli Wurzelbacher. “In light of the recent pandemic, home continues to evolve. And we connect to this artwork with new eyes.”

The exhibit includes what Bennett describes as “old favorites” with never-before-seen works. “This show combines the tried-and-true with new art — the classics and recent additions to our collections”

Raise the Roof debuts significant works by contemporary artists such as Courtney M. Leonard, Kenji Nakahashi and Stella Waitzkin. Never-before-exhibited photographs by Larry Fink, prints by Robert Dash, along with works by Romare Bearden, Salvador Dali, Olafur Eliasson, Miriam Schapiro, and Esphyr Slobodkina are also featured.

Visitors are immediately drawn to the exhibit’s anchor, Becky Suss’s large-scale painting “Living Room,” a recent acquisition (actually six paintings) that is based on Suss’s memories of her grandparents’ house in Great Neck. The array of artwork and objects she depicts captures the personalities and the values of the people who lived there.

“It’s a life-size piece that takes up an entire wall,” Bennett says. “It makes you feel immediately at home. “Everyone responds to it. They recognize the scenes and tell us it reminds them of their own house.”

“She also remembered the artwork her grandparents had in that house, so it represents art in art — in a really cool way.”

Centerport-based Pat Ralph, an artist with a longtime connection to the museum as a trustee collections committee member, is represented
with “The Visit Home.” Bennett describes the piece, which shows a man reclining in his childhood home, as”bright and dreamy.”

Also of note is Robert Carter’s mixed media painting “Mama Taught Me Piano and Much More.” It’s a powerful maternal work that pays tribute to the role of mothers.

“Robert also has a long history with the museum and this is only the second  time it’s been on view,” Bennett says. “We’re so happy to show his piece. It’s my personal favorite in the show.”