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Art & Life with Christine Palamidessi
Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine Palamidessi.
Christine, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I don’t know if artists’ stories are unique because one thing we all have in common is knowing that we are artists by the time we are 4 or 5-years old. Considering the opportunities that come our way, our families, and where we happen to be born…. it’s a blessing to be a person who is actually not only determined but also lucky enough to follow through and realize her talent and particular gifts. How many times do we meet lawyers who say, “I really wanted to be a writer, I started a novel but haven’t finished it yet,” or hear dentists say, “All my friends said I could have been a great sculptor.”
I have always been an artist. I recently read a quote by Steve Jobs: “Real artists ship,” which referred to the fact that everyone has ideas, but real artists deliver on them.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am really interested in three big things. First, what happens to art as it tumbles through time and how its meaning changes. How does it hold onto beauty, function, and participation in ritual and story despite the march of time? How much of the thread of humanity does it continue to contain? How does the dulling, washing away, breakage of old art and the making of new art enhance the message of form in our world—-both physically and metaphysically?
Second, I am interested in story. Since I am also a writer and novelist and was a professor at Boston University, I am obsessed with the story art tells. You could call the art I do narrative. Sometimes I feel it is important to mark a sculpture with words, or include an addendum when I exhibit so that a gallery goer can choose to read about how the art was made and inspired, if they like. If my art refers to ancient art or another artist, I want the viewer to know.
Third thing that’s important to me: materials. What an artist uses to make her mark, and how she makes it, and how well she controls materials, is as important as the resulting work. I most often use paper and do all sorts of things to it–fold, mold, dunk it in plaster, roll ink on it, write on it. I use plaster, too, and have cast the torsos of close to 100 yoga teachers in plaster for an exhibit. A few weeks ago I took an intensive course in scagliola. It’s an Italian technique for adding pigments and glues to white plaster in order to make it look like marble. It’s been exciting to add this new technique to my materials list.
What inspires me? Being human. I build sculptures that echo old things, re-mythologizing and re-consecrating the subjects, mostly figurative. Life moves so fast and we are all starving for human experience and relationships. Art is a way to stop an look around, both for the maker and the viewer. I like to raise the question: what does it mean to be human?
For instance, I did a series of Greek God sculptures that intersected the ancient myth with present time. Orpheus, God of Music, became a rap singer who thought he could get away with not following the rules. Nike, the Goddess of Victory, became my daughter, who was racing through the internet, looking for a job. Several years ago I cast massive cannonballs from the 1480 Ottoman siege of Italy, and I exhibited those ‘cannonball skins’ next to empty bullet shells from automatic weapons. Right now I am making a series of “Zen Asteroids,” humans forms made from stardust that has tumbled around outer space before dropping into my Somerville studio. I am looking forward to creating human forms from beautiful scagliola patterns.
Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
We live in a post-employment society, and artists are not on top of the status pile. In the United States, and elsewhere, success is measured by wealth. Most people think wealth is cash-money, and it can also be a rich and envious life resulting in beautiful, meaningful images and story. If you want to sell your art to make money in order to make more art and to pay bills, realize you are selling your art and you are selling your success. You are not poor in any way, shape or form. You might be broke–for the moment– but you are very rich.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
In Boston, I most often show at Atlantic Works Gallery and The Kathryn Schultz Gallery in Cambridge. I have been fortunate to also be on the wall in the many new galleries popping up on the waterfront in East Boston. Every day I post work that is for sale on Instagram. I do commission work, mostly the breastplates, which you can see on my website. And I show work in Italian galleries, too–because I like to spend summer in Italy–but that’s far away.
Editor, "Art & Life with Christine Palamidessi", Boston Voyager, August 27, 2018