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Mary Catherine Baird

IMG_20170915_175859Sprawled across Mary Catherine Baird’s gray hoodie in white script is a Mother Teresa quote, “Love begins at home.”

Baird interprets the quote to mean it’s necessary to establish a foundation of love and charity at home before it’s possible to spread that kindness throughout the world. In this context, “home” can be a family unit, a community or even a country.

“We always think of ‘home’ as a conventional place, but it’s about being safe and the memories you created with the ones you love,” the 30-year-old Appleton resident says. “If home is really where the heart is, it’s whatever people want to make it.”

This phrase – home is where the heart is – inspired Baird’s art piece at a pop-up gallery as part of Homeland Experience, a two-day music and art festival in Green Bay last September. The piece, titled “Home is Where the Heart Is,” consisted of an anatomically correct heart sketched floor-to-ceiling on the wall in charcoal. The word “home” was written at the center of the heart, from which yarn “heartstrings” extended and were wrapped around nearby poles.

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Baird is a photographer by trade, but she’s also a risk-taker who decided to attempt a large-scale installation for her first non collegiate, non photographic art show.

“When I create images, they are always for a client. This was for me,” she says. “It was something I was creating for myself, and that makes you extremely vulnerable.”

Viewers were invited to write a word or phrase within the heart describing what home means to them. Baird’s brother was one of the first to contribute to the interactive art piece, writing “unconditional love” as his definition of home.

IMG_20170915_191632“That was the first moment when I realized people were thinking of this on a much deeper level than I anticipated,” Baird says. “As people were writing, they got to have a space where they were free. It was all anonymous. They were able to say what was hurting, missing or lacking in their home. It became an outlet for whatever people needed in that moment.”

By the end of the two-day event, the heart was filled with words and phrases from playful to serious. One gentleman wrote the name of his deceased wife. This resonated with Baird, whose mother passed away when she was a freshman in college.

“I grew up in the same home in Neenah until I was 26. When we sold that house, it was very hard for me because of the memories we created there with my mom,” she says. “I hope [the installation] was a way to heal, even if it was just in that moment, for people who felt loss. I hope people got out of it as much as I did from watching them interact with it.”

To see Baird’s photography work, visit twoottersphotography.com.

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