Installation detail from "Antidote"

Dana Heffern

Burlington, VT | by December 22, 2013

I arrived at Dana Heffern’s Ver­mont stu­dio on a beau­ti­ful, sunny and quiet August Sun­day morn­ing. I was first greeted by the cheer­ful barks of Rosko, Dana’s peppy and tiny Affen­pin­scher puppy. Beyond the library and guest room, Dana’s cozy stu­dio space is tucked away in a quiet part of the house. When a project calls for more space, Dana uti­lizes her sparse two-​​car garage. Although her work­spaces are well estab­lished in her Ver­mont home after mov­ing there from New York City over four years ago, she is no stranger to the ‘portable stu­dio’ for on site work.

A recent exam­ple is the murals she painted on 3 dif­fer­ent lev­els at Burling­ton Col­lege in Burling­ton, Ver­mont, where Dana is a pro­fes­sor in the fine arts depart­ment. Dana descended upon those halls dur­ing a quiet and brief break between semes­ters and com­mit­ted a con­sid­er­able amount of paint in a very short amount of time. When asked how she was able to com­plete so much work alone and so quickly, Dana points out that her many years work­ing on numer­ous Broad­way pro­duc­tions, as a Union, Local 829 scenic artist, has enabled her to work very effi­ciently under tight time pressures.

I had the plea­sure of see­ing and hear­ing Dana’s trav­el­ing instal­la­tion and per­for­ma­tive din­ner called Anti­dote at Smith Col­lege in Northamp­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts this past sum­mer and also at God­dard Col­lege in Plain­field, Ver­mont in 2011. This piece is par­tic­u­larly mov­ing because the focal point is about break­ing bar­ri­ers regard­ing our fears of dis­ease. Hef­fern places a spot­light with visual and audio instal­la­tions that gives pres­ence to the dis­com­fort of dis­cussing or hear­ing spe­cific treatment/​management pro­ce­dures and also mis­in­for­ma­tion non-​​diseased peo­ple may offer to those liv­ing with a dis­ease. The work included urchin like crea­tures made up of hun­dreds of syringes set atop the din­ner table.

In Anti­dote the dis­ease in ques­tion, or rather in answer, is type I dia­betes. I say “in answer” because Hef­fern looks to debunk hearsay of do-​​it-​​yourself cures, treat­ments and man­age­ment she has heard over the years from many peo­ple about how she can tackle and even over­come type I dia­betes. How­ever, it’s not only Heffern’s voice that echo’s through Anti­dote. Hef­fern spent count­less hours inter­view­ing, writ­ing to and meet­ing with other type I dia­bet­ics and included their expe­ri­ences in the installation.

When asked ‘what’s next’, Hef­fern said her con­ver­sa­tion with dystopia is still ongo­ing and she is cur­rently work­ing on por­trai­tures of afflic­tion. To find out more about Dana Hef­fern, please visit her web­site at 

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