Harriet Salmon: Tracing Genologies at Heroes

Featured Project: with artist and co-founder of Heroes Gallery

Harriet Salmon with (from left) Benny Merris’ An Other Another 196, 2022 and an Emilio Pucci silk scarf from 1964. Courtesy: Emilio Pucci Heritage.

Hrriet Salmon is an artist, gallerist, as well as a podcast host and producer. Her engagement in art is deep and wide—in her own art she makes sculpture, drawing, photo, installation, and weaving; in Heroes, the gallery she co-founded with her partner, Jesse Penridge, they create vibrant visual dialogues between contemporary artists and historical art; in her Craftsmanship podcast she discusses technical skill in the contemporary artworld told through oral history of fabricators.

Tell me about Heroes Gallery and its origin.

My partner, Jesse Penridge and I started Heroes Gallery in the midst of the pandemic. It began as an online curatorial project with group shows installed in a virtual space. Everything in the artworld was online at that time and it seemed like an incredible moment to join the conversation. We realized how much we enjoyed working together and decided to look into the possibility of a brick-and-mortar space in the Lower East Side.

We realized we weren’t interested in taking on a roster of artists right away, we wanted some time to figure out how this model can ultimately be successful for both the gallery and the artist and we didn’t want to enter a long-term relationship without spending some time working with an artist first. We decided to run a series of shows under a curatorial template for a few years until we could un-pick the representation knot bit more.

What is your curatorial vision and can you give some examples from current and past shows?

Heroes Gallery curates contemporary artists alongside their aesthetic and conceptual predecessors, tracing genealogies through time. We invite a contemporary artist to start a conversation with us and through a series of studio visits, we find out who has had a big impact on their practice and why. Then Jesse and I dig into research, loans and consignment agreements, choosing a piece or pieces by the more historical artist that reflect the relationship of ideas and how they travel within art history. It feels like a form of map making, identifying the aesthetics, concepts and formal decisions that are informing artists today. It’s my favorite way to look at work and I think building this context for younger artists brings a richness and historical depth to their work – something that is sometimes missing in the early stages for an artist’s career.

Some examples would be Maria Calandra choosing Elizabeth Murray as an influence on her vibrant landscape paintings or John Divola choosing the 1940s photographer Frederick Sommer. It’s not always a one-to-one relationship though, for our current show the contemporary artist Benny Merris chose a constellation of influences that include among others Joan Jonas, Lygia Clark, Emilio Pucci and Jacques-Yves Cousteau!

For the initial few shows we curated the artist pairings but, in the end, we found it more interesting to let the artists themselves choose their influences. This collaborative process became much more rewarding for us as gallerists because we were introduced to historical work that we weren’t necessary familiar with which allows the program to expand beyond Jesse and my ecosystems.

From left: Elizabeth Murray, Shack, 1994; Maria Calandra, North Yuba River Swim, 2021; Maria Calandra, Sunset Outside of Arezzo, 2021; Maria Calandra, Sunrise in Oakland on Skyline, 2021; Maria Calandra, Fairy Ring in the Redwoods National Park, 2021.
From left: John Divola, George Air Force Base, Daybreak, 4_2019B_15A, 2019 and Frederick Sommer, Untitled (Vertical Rock Landscape), c. 1947.

You are also an artist. What would you like to share about your own body of work?

My practice uses traditional craft techniques to investigate our experience with the natural world, formal aspects of the scientific method and the cultural fingerprint of science fiction. I often reference landscape; how we move through it on a physical level—how our bodies feel moving through spaces, and on a conceptual level—how we understand the natural world and what we expect/demand from it. Within these landscapes I explore ideas of belonging and alienation, themes that often appear in science fiction and horror narratives. An ominous presence in the landscape appeals as both an intrigue and a metaphor for our future climate situation. My interest in a visceral feeling of not-belonging reflects my experiences as a young child and immigrant to the United States. Adaptation, mimicry and misplacement are all present in the landscapes of my work.

Harriet Salmon, Ansel’s Yosemite (untitled 2), 2015, ink and photo-collage on paper, 14 x 11 inches.

Harriet Salmon received an MFA in sculpture from Yale (2006), a BFA from California College of the Arts (2001) and has attended residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Chashama and Socrates Sculpture Park. Salmon’s artwork has been included in exhibitions at The Journal Gallery, Postmasters Gallery and Klaus von Nichtssagenden Gallery and is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Salmon worked professionally within many arms of the contemporary artworld; from managing fabrication projects to leading image research for Artform Magazine. Salmon is the producer and host for Craftsmanship Podcast, an oral history project discussing technical skill in the contemporary artworld and am an experienced community builder with a demonstrated history of working closely with artists and institutions.