Fountain House Gallery – the premier venue in New York City representing artists living with mental illness – today announced the upcoming group exhibition Show Us Your Hearts.

Show Us Your Hearts is curated by Harvey Fierstein and Alyson Vega. Fierstein is an award-winning writer, actor, gay rights activist, and artist. Vega is a Fountain House Gallery artist.

Fountain House Gallery Director Rachel Weisman said, “Show Us Your Hearts asks artists to consider the vast visual history of the heart as a symbol – and its connotations. Some artists, such as Mario Fontenla, Elizabeth Roberts, and Susan Spangenberg have packed their compositions with colorful depictions of a stylized heart symbol. Despite this, these artists were able to create works that avoid feeling saccharine. Other artists, like Issa Ibrahim, boldly exclude the heart entirely by depicting a body flayed – devoid of all organs – on an operating table. Exhibiting for the first time at Fountain House Gallery, AG Davis, Nicolaus J. Myers, and TWST embrace a highly energetic interpretation of the theme, encouraging the eye to bounce from corner to corner.”

Weisman continued, “Inviting outside curators and visionaries to engage with our artists is a rewarding opportunity to bring new perspectives and frameworks into our space. These unique collaborations not only benefit our artists but also offer our collectors and supporters a chance to see the expansive technical and conceptual skill set of our Gallery roster. We are deeply grateful to Harvey Fierstein for his support and to Fountain House Gallery artist Alyson Vega for her commitment to this exhibition.”

This program is funded, in part, by generous support from the Renate, Hans, and Maria Hofmann Trust, and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Curator Statement by Harvey Fierstein

The call went out, “Show us your heart.” Whether the artists wanted to tell us who they are, who they love, who they’ve lost, or what makes them tick, they were invited to create and submit artwork on the theme. The only requirement was that somewhere, somehow, a representation of a heart had to exist within their pieces.

The heart has been used to communicate, express, or simply record human observation since cave drawings. From the simplest commercial Valentine to Frida Kahlo’s statement of the excruciating pain of life, the heart is immediately recognized and identified. It has been employed to convey joy, pain, sadness, hope, and even geography – “The heart of town.” “The heart of the nation.” “I give you my heart.” “The heart of the problem.” “My heart is broken.” “You’re heartless.” “At the heart of it all.” “My heart goes with you.” What other simple shape can be assigned so many meanings to every one of us?

Not surprisingly the call for work was answered with a mind-boggling panoply of emotional statements, personal history, and even political commentary. The media the artists employed were as wide-ranging as the ideas they were expressing. We were presented with works in oil, watercolor, acrylic, fabric, crayon, collage, woodcut, photography, and digital imagery. It was a thrilling and astounding harvest of work.

Let me say that I have never been comfortable rating one artist’s output against another’s. All art, in my view, is valid. I was once greatly chastised by writer Irene Fornés for saying such a thing. But this is how I feel and how I usually operate. But faced with this fascinating, almost overwhelming, array of pieces, and knowing the constraints of the Gallery space, I sought to choose as wide a variety of expression as possible. I wanted to give every visitor to this exhibition the greatest chance to fall in love with a work of art. That was how I measured and sorted the pieces.

Hard as I tried, such selections are never perfect, but I hope that you will find in this explosion of talent a window into each of the artists who answered the call. They’ve offered their truths, as artists do, to show you their hearts.

Curator Statement by Alyson Vega

A show about hearts has been a dream of mine for over 30 years. Harvey Fierstein’s brother Ron used to be my sister Suzanne’s manager. A chance meeting at a fundraiser brought us together. We connected quickly over our mutual love of quilting. (I may have invited myself over to his home to use his long-armed quilting machine.) Harvey complimented my artwork on Instagram, and I asked him to co-curate the show with me for Fountain House Gallery.

Mr. Fierstein, having never curated a show before, was initially reluctant. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, appealed to his love of the arts and impeccable taste before finally winning him over. We worked together to create a call for work, combining my concept with his vision. He shared the call with the artists and a spark was lit.

Show Us Your Hearts is truly a labor of love. Harvey and I occasionally disagreed on minor semantic issues and he did all of the heavy lifting. I fielded numerous questions from the artists after the call came out. My response was always what Harvey had told me: Put your full self into the art. The results are magnificent and overwhelming. I am grateful to have had the chance to learn from him and to work with him. Harvey curated the pieces selected for the show and I am so pleased. He did not want to reject anything. Harvey Fierstein’s heart is art. Seeing my vision realized fills my heart with joy, love, and gratitude.

Harvey Fierstein is an award-winning artist, author, actor, and gay rights activist. Moviegoers know him for roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Bullets over Broadway, The Times of Harvey Milk, and others. TV appearances have included Sesame Street, Cheers, Hairspray Live, Murder She Wrote, Saturday Night Live, and countless talk show gigs. His stage roles have included his Tony Award-winning turns in Hairspray, Torch Song Trilogy, Fiddle on the Roof, and La Cage Aux Folles. He’s received Tony Awards and nominations for writing Kinky Boots, La Cage Aux Folles, Newsies, Hairspray, A Catered Affair, and Casa Valentinaamong others. Trained as an artist at The High School of Art & Design, The Brooklyn Museum School, and Pratt Institue, he is currently deeply immersed in quilt making. His memoir, I was Better Last Night, is a NY Times Best Seller.

Alyson Vega is a Puerto Rican fiber artist who taught herself to sew at a young age. Born in New York City in 1962, she received an AB in Japanese Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University. After teaching math for over 20 years, Alyson sustained a brain injury that ended her

career; at the same time, she developed an urgency to create. No longer able to follow a pattern, she made assemblages with whatever she could find. Utilizing a wide variety of materials and techniques, Alyson’s pieces reflect the beauty and order she perceives in a chaotic world. Her work has been shown in a solo exhibition at White Columns and the Outsider Art Fair and is included in numerous private collections.