(Claudia Bueno’s fantastical art exhibition extends to the exterior of the Hermitage Museum. Photo by Lindsay Collette.)

By Betsy DiJulio

Born of shattering heartbreak and a deeply integrated process of healing, Echoes of the Heart embodies artist Claudia Bueno’s immersion in open-hearted, wholehearted living. 

The mesmerizing immersive experiences she and her team create through sculpture, drawing, light, sound, circuits, motors, wind, and film are meant to visually dazzle, emotionally resonate, and intellectually reverberate, encouraging inner growth that springs from a place of vulnerability and openness. 

By harnessing energy, consciousness, and spirit through the “portal of the heart” in accordance with her disciplined practice at Hridaya Yoga meditation retreats in Mexico, the world-renowned Venezuelan-born artist—who has made her home in Sedona, AZ for the last two years—seeks evolution and transcendence for herself and others within a connected community.

Like the four chambers of the heart, Echoes unfolds in four installations beginning on the exterior of the Hermitage and continuing on the first and second floors.  Metaphors of the Heart, a monumental wire mesh sculpture glowing with breathtaking colored lights, seems to grow out of the museum’s façade like a three-dimensional painting in space.  Characterized by rhythmic pulsations and waves of energy, biological forms burst forth into expansive, layered, and meticulously considered metaphors derived from the likes of twisting arteries, branches, vines, and octopus tentacles, as well as blooms and blossoms.

These forms morph into snakeskin-inspired patterns imbuing the Snake Tunnel with associations of shedding and transitioning as it leads visitors into the museum’s darkened foyer which has been transformed into The Mother Heart, a light sculpture in the form of an abstract heart sending more signals to the body than even those sent by the brain.  Throughout, the radiating expressions of life and vitality are choreographed to mystical soundscapes by Brazilian-born healer/musician, Porangui, a well-known figure at transformational festivals where community building, creative expression, healthy living, and social responsibility are nurtured and celebrated.

On the second floor, visitors enter The Heart Temple, a sacred space of shrines at the top of the staircase, itself a curated transitional space lit with candles and illuminated by quotes.  Making their first appearance in Bueno’s oeuvre are eight wall-mounted wooden altars, their doors emblazoned with laser cut abstractions of anatomical hearts.

Brilliantly lit from within, these magical storybook dioramas are each devoted to a theme of the heart:  opening, closing, longing, belonging, innocence, challenges, seasons, and the somatic.  Distilled from interviews with 50 volunteers, ages 5 to 80, audio tapestries of their voices accompany each phantasmagoric wonderworld of miniature scenes and symbols to which Bueno joyfully refers as “a complete craziness of mixed media,” a continuation of a childhood happily spent in her mother’s studio “making everything.”

In the adjacent gallery, Pulsating Heart Portal is a rectangular installation of exquisitely delicate line drawings in light for which Bueno is widely acclaimed.  She has been evolving this proprietary technology for a decade resulting in dynamic drawings of nature-inspired forms with increasing depth and intricate detail.  Everything emanates from abstractions of the heart and lungs with each layer of lacelike forms expanding, contracting, and morphing into the next, creating their own shapeshifting universe of undulating organic patterns. 

The experience concludes with a space for reflection.  Here, visitors are invited to thoughtfully consider what they have seen, heard, and felt, and to write love letters to themselves, others, or the larger world and pin their words from the heart to the wall for others to read and contemplate.

Echoes, which was two years in the making, was spawned when curator Carrie Spencer discovered Bueno on Colossal, an international online platform for contemporary art, saw her work in person at Meow Wolf, and then, in her words, “went down the Claudia Bueno rabbit hole.” Bueno’s work was unlike anything that had been shown in this area and would activate both the galleries and grounds in ways for which the Hermitage has become known.  Studio and museum visits followed an initial meeting on Zoom which resulted in Bueno’s proposal for Echoes, her largest installation to date, requiring a six-week installation residency.

From an exquisitely personal place in the artist’s heart and shared community springs universal truths and the heartfelt offering of a panacea for both our individual struggles and a polarized world.


Natalie Connell 

Ben Timby

Mads Christensen

Adolfo Bueno

Patricia Bueno 

Brittany Mattrella

Celia Lopez


From Hermitage:

Beau Turner

Cristina Fletcher

Jon Brashears

Tabatha Anger 



Claudia Bueno: Echoes of the Heart

Through October 8

Hermitage Museum and Gardens