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Installation view, Valerie Hegarty, “Alternative Histories” at the Brooklyn Museum (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

In three of the period rooms at the Brooklyn Museum, something is amiss. When visitors step into the cutout nook that offers a view of the Cane Acres Plantation dining room, they find, rather than the usual placid and civilized scene, one slightly more mad: crows have descended upon the dinner table. They are pecking at brightly colored globs of fruit strewn on the table, attacking the paintings, and leaving crumbs everywhere. Meanwhile, in the parlor of the Cupola House, George Washington’s face has fallen grossly out of his portrait, while a Native American–patterned rug decays on the floor below. In the hall of the same house, a painting and furniture are studded with nasty holes, which look like bullet wounds that have oxidized.

The installations are the work of artist Valerie Hegarty, who, in an exhibition titled Alternative Histories, has infused the staid period rooms with a dose of lively historical revenge. When I visited this past weekend, passersby were appropriately and delightfully confused. The reactions I overheard ranged from bursts of laughter to incessant questioning, to appreciation that the museum was “doing something different.” One woman, speaking of Hegarty, asked her companion, “Does she specialize in destruction?”

Detail of Valerie Hegarty’s “Tablecloth with Fruit and Crows” (2013), in the Cane Acres Plantation dining room

Detail of Valerie Hegarty’s “Tablecloth with Fruit and Crows” (2013)

Details of Valerie Hegarty’s “Tablecloth with Fruit and Crows” (2013) and “Still-Life Paintings with Crows” (2013)

Valerie Hegarty, “Native American Chief (Sharitarish) with Branches” and “Native American Rug with Marsh Grass” (both 2013), in the Cupola House parlor

Detail of Valerie Hegarty’s “Native American Rug with Marsh Grass” (2013)

Valerie Hegarty, “George Washington and Head” (2013)

Valerie Hegarty’s intervention in the Cupola House hall

Valerie Hegarty, “The Pic-Nic with Downy Woodpecker” (2013)

Valerie Hegarty, “Dishware with Holes” (2013)

Valerie Hegarty, “Side Table with Pileated Woodpecker” and “Chairs” (both 2013)

Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories continues at the Brooklyn Museum through December 1.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...