Claudia Bueno Transforms the Hermitage Museum Into an Electrifying, Interactive Heart

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A vibrant multi-color installation that appears to glow in the dark

Claudia Bueno, “Metaphors of the Heart” (2023). All photos by Lindsay Collette unless otherwise specified

Claudia Bueno’s new exhibition spills from the façade of the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia. “Metaphors of the Heart,” a massive sculpture of wire mesh and colorful light, appears to effortlessly take over the mansion in a whirlwind of arteries, tentacles, twisting vines, and blooms. It is the dynamic showpiece of Claudia Bueno: Echoes of the Heart, which guests first encounter as they walk up the driveway of the 1908 estate.

Bueno’s first museum exhibition explores the heart-brain connection to promote togetherness and a sense of belonging. The artist’s commitment to healing and inner growth is reflected in her mystical, immersive environments and in her collaboration with world music healer and musician Poranguí, who helped to create original soundscapes for each space.

A vibrant multi-color installation that appears to glow in the dark

Claudia Bueno, “The Mother Heart” (2023)

Visitors continue their journey into Bueno’s “heart” by entering “Snake Tunnel,” a covered ramp of glowing sculptural scales that Bueno likens to an artery, where they metaphorically shed and prepare for the transition into the museum’s interior. As viewers step inside, “The Mother Heart” appears with its suspended, undulating arms that colorfully alight in choreography to one of Poranguí’s sonic, ancestral tracks.

Upstairs, guests are invited to participate in an intimate, sacred experience as they explore “The Heart Temple,” a collection of eight handmade altars inspired by interviews with 50 volunteers ranging from ages five to 80. Each altar contains a dreamlike, storybook diorama sparked by these discussions and devoted to themes of opening, closing, longing, belonging, innocence, challenges, seasons, and the somatic.

A detail image of an intricate white and gold work with various motifs

Claudia Bueno, “Pulsating Heart Portal” (detail) (2023). Photo by Adolfo Bueno

In a second gallery, “Pulsating Heart Portal” builds on the artist’s Meow Wolf Omega Mart series with a new portal created for the Hermitage. The piece features 10 layers of intricate line drawings on glass that appear to contract and expand in concert with exhilarating sound and light. Rooted by the heart at its center, the design recalls symbols found throughout the exhibition including blooms, snakes, and arteries.

In the final space, guests are invited to pause for reflection and connect with their own hearts. A letter-writing station invites them to freely compose and add their offering to a “collective heart” on the gallery walls. The result of this unexpected journey is a much-needed pause from the noise of the outside world and a return to our most essential, emotional selves.

Claudia Bueno: Echoes of the Heart runs through October 8 at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia, and is free to the public.

Exhibition collaborators include Natalie Connell, Ben Timby, Mads Christensen, Adolfo Bueno, Patricia Bueno, Brittany Mattrella, Celia Lopez, Porangui, Beau Turner, Cristina Fletcher, Jon Brashears, and Tabatha Anger.

For more information, visit thehermitagemuseum.org.

Find more of Bueno’s work on her website and Instagram.

A vibrant multi-color installation that appears to glow in the dark

Claudia Bueno, “Metaphors of the Heart” (2023)

A vibrant multi-color installation that appears to glow in the dark

Claudia Bueno, “The Mother Heart” (2023)

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