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Of limes and camouflage

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Catalogo di Victoria DeBlassie

Text of Of limes and camouflage

  • Of Limes and Camoufl ageVictoria DeBlassie

  • Of Limes and Camoufl agean introduction by Connor Maley

    Of Limes and Camoufl age, Victoria DeBlassies, F_AIR- Florence Artist in Residence from January to May 2013, most recent solo exhibition is an in-depth and fragrantly dizzying exploration of the illimitable preponderance of boundaries, demarcations, beginnings and endings that mark and mar a life, a sussing out of the cobwebs and the skeletal remains of the past and the present and all the furiously confusing interstitial areas in between beginnings and endings and pasts and presents and where, amidst all of this, the artist and the viewer fi t into this blinding mess hidden behind a maschera of fulgent, wrecked beauty. Dont be fooled by the seemingly joyous sheen of orange or reds most relatable to sunlight; a haunted intensity lies underneath the surface, like stained glass. As a result of a Fulbright Scholarship award for 2012-2013 period, she has been afforded an opportunity to immerse herself in the Florentine artistic world, itself a blend of contemporaneous and atavistic infl uences, which has proven to be a catalytic context in which she could thenceforth build upon a longheld theoretical aspect of her critical research based on the recycling of orange peels, a practice with which she has experimenting since the nascent moments of her career with her focus zeroing in on the manipulation of materials, ideally ones that most people forget about or ignore, endowing post-consumed objects and fruits with a renaissance of their own. Perhaps more than anything else, its the ideals and principles behind these substrative notions regarding material transformation and the reimagined re-use of an object well past its shelf-life expiry or relevance date that comprise the generative force behind her artistic drive.An elemental crux to DeBlassiess theoretical underpinning is the fact that oranges in Italian culture, dating back to the Italian Renaissance, have been historically associated with luxurious wealth, opulence, and classism and with the misguided, unnatural creation of manmade establishments of utopian order designed to somehow mimic the natural disorder of the natural world in order to create a safe hospice where the plutocratic community could get away from the unruly masses and distantly admire the nature they were subsuming. In Renaissance gardens oranges alluded to happy and fruitful events and to prosperity not to mention the immediate bounty of the future of which they were heliocentrically convinced was destined for them, but this was also a fruit-a relic, really, an artifact-to which few at that time had hopes of access, which is as metaphorical of a statement as it is literal. These gardens as loci amoeni excluded the outside world with

    schemes that opened the mind to lofty abstract geometry and to the restrictive girds on the breadth of the truly feral and uncontained natural world, and they were reserved only for the elite. The interpretation of the orange as once being an elitist, Medicean fruit reserved exclusively for the wasteful ornamentation of the ruling class that has now evolved into a readily available commodity found in supermarkets for a few meager euros per kilo whose skins and pulp eventually fi nd their way into dumpsters and waste receptacles to be subsequently forgot about as the juicer runs its mouth is key in this exhibition: in fact, the wryly subversive idea of repurposing established systems of value and class and giving the outlandish fortune that once was reserved for so few back to such a vast public is integral to understanding DeBlassies work. This gift and its generosity transcend and supplant time. This convergence of past and present are fundamental to Of Limes and Camoufl age, which is composed of wall pieces and installation works where the dominating elements are warm colors of the sun, the fruits that most resemble it, and the visible gradations and developments marked indelibly by the passage of time felt and experienced by all manner of objects and organisms with a skin or a surface on which to show it, from overgrown Renaissance gardens to moir-mimicking mesh packaging for mass produced oranges to the impossibility of a perfectly translated story where linguistic tropes hope to mirror meaning but cannot despite translators best efforts. Material, for DeBlassie, is a type of language that tells a story of change and relationships. DeBlassie collects and afterward processes the perfumed citrus peels using traditional Italian tanning techniques to transform the orange, lime, and lemon peels into a new leather, esteeming the time-honored methods of leather-making and transplanting those methodologies onto a modern art-making form, blending the two. She stitches the tanned peels together in order to make a pliable material with limitless structural and architectural capabilities. She has been applying various crafts techniques to orange peels since she was a teenager with a developing interest in creative reuse of material and textural, formal transformation. At the end of the frequent family brunches occurring on Sunday during her formative years, Victoria assigned herself the role of tidying up; she collected the meals leftover fruit peels and explored ways of providing new postprandial meaning to those otherwise useless skins and rinds and husks, in order to extend but also transmogrify the joy and ongoing developmental growth and evolution found during those gatherings. Melancholic, yet social, Victoria liked to weave large, intensive tapestries inspired by these meals of increasing impermanence that haunted as much as they charmed. Saving the peels, renovating the life

  • of the fruits, and sculpturally translating the presiding power of these experiences allowed for a continuation of the feast, preserving and honoring a private taste of the fl avors and smells of a past to which one can never return but is wholly formed by regardless.DeBlassie emphasizes the convivial dimension surrounding the genesis of her practice in an attempt to involve the audience through conversation and interaction with the art-making and the art itself so that the two become indistinguishable or at least dependent on one another, and in Of Limes and Camoufl age, the social and participative aspects mark the beginning and the development of her project and blossom in new and fascinating ways, becoming almost a pretext from which to explore the complex dynamics of building meaningful relationships in a foreign country where ones theretofore easily established and understood identity is disintegrated and disrupted almost immediately after leaving the airport and to tap into the manifold ways in which meaning, signifi cance, and expression emerge-and dissolvelinguistically and imagistically and socially and even gastronomically across cultures, the oh so many successes and failures of trying to assert oneself in a world not your own. How does one be oneself in a world where the normal manners in which one expresses oneself no longer apply? How to validate oneself in a world where ones validation is, in essence, invalid, and if not quite invalid then at least confounding and implausible? Ontologically, how does one be or essere in such a world? Its a literal and psychological process of conjugation with oneself as the transitive verb. DeBlassies work digs into these quandaries and conundra and is simultaneously cheery and grim about it, humorous and deadly somber. In a language not her own and in which she was continuously grasping for meaning, Victoria overcame the intimidation of being alien among unknown people and sought out the kindness and help of strangers and local merchants and vendors alike, and further edifi ed the interpersonal sociality of her previous work in this project set both in Firenze and Castelfranco di Sotto and pretty much everywhere else in between. As the title suggests, the exhibition is not merely about citruses; utilizing and valorizing all sundry types of ephemera and interrelated curios, it is an investigation into personal mimetism and the subtle politics and gestures that complicate blending into not just a foreign country and ones surroundings as a whole but becoming a part, parcel, and fabric of the entire sociocultural atmosphere-i.e. becoming someone else within yourself - in which a person fi nds him- or herself, where language is a fi lter as well as a means of sharing and an offering and, above all, an investigative device used to deepen our understanding of the fl uidity and protean nature of identity.What, then, to make of the whole Of Limes and Camoufl age title and its putative obscurity, or of the limes themselves? Whats

    needed to address those questions is a understanding of both the history of citrus fruits and a better comprehension of what exactly camoufl age or crypsis means especially in these contexts outside of a typical martial rendering. What do citrus fruits and Renaissance gardens and camoufl age have to do with each other, especially when convened into one multilayered mostra? What does remembering the fact that aristocrats wanted to preserve in chrysalis form a kind of on-life-support representation of nature mean even if the forms through which they preserved such representations made zero sense nor bore much genuine resemblance to the actual fructive origins from which they indeed literally came and stood out more than they blended in, and how, above all, does this relate to camoufl age and committing oneself to becoming part of a new culture through a process of self-blending and -assimilation and -shedding? Can all of these disparate parts, in fact, relate? Yes, it turns out, resoundingly. Limes as a keyword and a key image here isnt random, nor is it solely reliant upon its relat

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