The «Total Environment» exhibition by Maggie Cardelus in Moscow Museum of Modern Art contains artworks which explore the concept of home and family as the basis of human existence. The artist was born in 1962 in the USA. She holds citizenship in the Spain and the US. She has been residing in Italy since 1993. Cardelus creates artworks like an artist; she gives them life like a woman; and entrusts them to the role of an author like a loving mother. And it is not because characters of her artworks are her family members; the matter is that it has developed into an original shared authorship. The artist often says that her art often occurs as a result of long-term conversations and interaction with her relatives. She also involves her children as co-authors, and even independent authors, in her exhibitions.
Cardelus transforms her family photo archives into an elaborated lace patterns and sculptural form, where frozen moments expanding in time and space. According to the artist, the process of cutting out family photos releases them from any limitations of the medium. She unwinds a photo like a ball of yarn and creates the whole world of it. Her knife sets matter in motion and she extracts «space-time» from the photographic «statics-flatness.»
Cardelus’s work is extremely personal. It is made mostly by her own hand with little hired labor. As mentioned earlier, time gets connected with space when her snapshots are cut. At first, such space is two-dimensional. Photo cuttings are then folded or stratified, creating depth in the picture. They unwind, transforming planes into three-dimensional objects. Cardelus’s photographic images seem to reduce to three basic shapes, i.e. a line, a circle and a ball. The ball is a sign of full completeness as well as an initial sphere with impulse of life. The line is an umbilical cord between them. The circle is a starting point for transformation of the line into the ball, etc.
The family is an experience that any human being is immersed in her death. And human happiness much depends upon its environment, on how home is defined and lived by the people who inhabit it. For many centuries home has been traditionally determined a female field. It has been considered to be marginal, a «remainder», so to say. In former times, creative work was rated as exceptional and exalted, while child rearing was defined as insignificant by comparison, and in biology it was called reproduction. Only in the 20th century, when culture theory described artistic production as a type of technical reproduction, women’s art became appreciated as a phenomenon following its own rules rather than long-time laws invented by men. Maggie Cardelus’s «Total Environment» reclaims the home, maintenance, and child-rearing, as serious subjects rich with possibilities:
«...I discovered that the family album, because of its fundamental role within family culture (not just my family culture, but most family cultures) is a powerful and potent material for my work. It is the repository of our deepest fears—fear of time passing, of loss, of death, of oblivion...and the object that memorializes a family’s self-presentation for the future and for those outside the family. People’s family images are often their most valued possessions.
Artisthood and home-making merged in my work a long time ago as a way to keep both worlds thriving. I make art and at the same time I draw out family problems and recognize tensions that would otherwise go unnoticed, create dialogue, analyse and resolve relational conflict, ease pain, recognize change, celebrate life, and prepare for death. Art-making for me inscribes and describes a space of communication that is „other“ to conventional everydayness, where transgression is allowed, rules are broken, and new forms of social exchange are invented. I have concentrated mostly on the family album, elaborating our cultural compulsion to memory-keep.
Any deep engagement will eventually yield up all of knowledge, but the home and family yield it up especially fully to me.»