My brother and his family lived in a big old house with a powder room down some steps and nicely out of the way. I was searching for toilet paper on one visit and opened a door in the wall that was about shoulder high. In it was a large space, where I found the extra toilet paper. I thought the space was too grand to use as storage and asked if I could make a miniature ball room scene in there with dancers and a lighted crystal chandelier. My brother suggested something racier to give a shock to would be snoopers. I never built that scene but often think of that space and I still love little doors and secret spaces. If you also love stuff like this you need to stop by the RAC Freeark Gallery to see Heather Hug’s and Shawn Vincent’s show Mind Body Object.

How many of you look in a host’s medicine cabinet when you are a guest in his home? I, personally, have never snooped but have opened a cabinet to get something I needed in the moment, saline for a contact lens issue or a swipe of lipstick (just kidding). I don’t think I have too many damning things in my medicine cabinet except for my necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention-creation lice detector and removal kit.

Up until now, I didn’t know of any artists who have been inspired by the medicine cabinet except for Damian Hirst when he was a student in the 80s. He created twelve very clinical looking cabinets with empty drug packages on their shelves. Each piece was named after a song from the Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks album. Heather Hug on the other hand has created the coolest medicine cabinet you’ll ever see. It’s about ten feet long filled with the detritus of a life lived, perhaps well, perhaps not.

“We behave as collectors. We collect the faces, places, smells, feelings and ideas from life that we use to construct our identities as unique beings. We take on friends, belongings responsibilities. We make homes, families, complex relationships. We connect ourselves to a constant stream of information flowing into us until we are full. Until we have collected all we can hold, cramming more and more in until it is enough.” -hug

Fabulous! Although I don’t know if there is ever enough or perhaps I just haven’t gotten there, Heather Hug! You’ll have fun opening the doors of Ms. Hug’s medicine cabinet ,which she has stocked with things from tea bags to dental molds. The physical cabinet is reminiscent of N. D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards but there is nothing too ominous going on here unless you have a fear of hoarding. The cabinet hangs over a huge clay sink that she also made. The sink has not been fired so as the things fall out of the cabinet and the sink becomes brittle and falls apart, like the human body, everything will break down at some point. I hope the show is up long enough to complete the cycle.

Heather has some other great pieces in the show which all deal with the physical collection of stuff in our lives. She mixes found objects with her signature big-eyed ceramic characters. These pieces are juxtaposed with the delicate ceramic, glass and mixed media pieces made by Shawn Vincent, also an accomplished potter. Where Heather explores the physical and emotional aspects of living and collecting throughout our lives, Shawn explores the physiological aspect of this process.

My mother has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She is at the shuffling stage; she doesn’t know who we are and is often agitated by this lack of control in her life. But when she is with one of her children she is usually calm. My sister calls this “heart memory.” Where her broken brain doesn’t know who we are, her heart recognizes us on some level and she feels safe.

That is what comes to mind when I looked at Shawn Vincent’s pieces in this show. One wall is filled with ceramic red blood cell platelets flowing across the wall. As they travel they pick up and hold onto the things that happen to us. We are an accumulation of our experiences. Our body stores the detritus of our life in every cell of our body. Heart memory. Cell memory.

Shawn’s pieces are made from clay and glass. They are delicate and beautiful, ceramic DNA strands with glass beads strung through them. She has recently begun working in glass and has made some beautiful pieces that hold the detritus of life in little glass pockets. When someone at the opening asked Heather which pieces were hers and which were Shawn’s, she responded, “Mine are the dirty ones.”

Mind Body Object is a beautifully curated show. It is all about our travel through life, both physical, psychological and cellular. It shows us so poignantly how we store every thing, every memory and every experience inside and outside of our bodies.

Both Shawn and Heather have taught ceramics and art at the RAC. This is a kid-friendly show and a great opportunity for the students to see their teachers’ work.

Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and founder of Doodle Art & Design, a lunchtime elementary school art program and summer camp. Check it out on Facebook! She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. You can experience more about her at

Kathleen Thometz

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...