Thursday, January 29, 2009

Creating personal space

I paint and make small sculptures, but one of the things I really enjoy is making vignettes. One of my favorite hobbies when I was a kid was making dioramas with tissue boxes and cardboard cutouts. It may be in my genes: from roadside memorials to market stalls, Mexicans may be born display artists! I tend to collect things, so I have to remind myself to only keep items that are meaningful and personal. Besides useful things like chap stick and wrist watches, these are some of the items on top of my dresser:

I painted the canvas on the background, it represents the soul of purgatory. For me it is a symbol of overcoming difficulty. This painting belongs to my boyfriend, there is also a note from him inside a cigar box. The two antique art books and the clay figurine are gifts from my father. The figurine is from Chiapas, it was found by my grandfather. The pocket watch is a gift from my mother. She got if for me back in 1980, in Moscow. It has a Mishka bear on the back commemorating the Olympic games. There's some candy that my sister got for me in Italy, while visiting her sweetheart (there is also a photo of my sister to the right, not pictured). I got the miniature mask in Venice. It represents a Dottore della Peste, a character in Commedia dell' arte and what could be an early version of a gas mask. It represents protection and good health. The "Dottore" has a little golden crown on top that would generally be placed on a Santo figurine.

A museum once listed me as an "altar maker" as opposed to other colleagues that were given the label "installation artist". So, what is the difference? Creating vignettes in our personal space could be a form of altar making. Altars are generally crated for religious, spiritual or ceremonial practices. I think displaying personal items goes beyond decorating or religious practice. The purpose is not to create something beautiful, or to simply decorate. So, what is it then? Displaying your belongings can be whatever you want it to be. Anyone can create a personal vignette. For me, it is a manifestation of the things I hold dear and the people I love. It is also an art form, that is also a continuing source of more artistic inspiration.

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