Italy, July 2010 - Rebecca Reeve interviews Anna Galtarossa, whose solo exhibition Domestic Divinities is currently up at Studio la Città (Verona, Italy). Galtarossa has been described as an "assymmetrical artist" who makes “strange birds with mirrors, skyscrapers and dazzling organisms covered in feathers... her installations are surreal, contemporary, vernacular, and enchanted landscapes. They are personal visions of a possible future and of places where rules are unknown." (Andrea Lissoni)
Anna Galtarossa, Domestic Divinities installation view, 2010; Courtesy the artist and Studio la Città
Rebecca Reeve: Divinità Domestiche is your first solo show in Verona, your home town. How did the concept evolve for this show and is it keeping with the common themes within your practice?
Anna Galtarossa: My work has always evolved around the creation of mythical worlds through the use of everyday or mass-produced objects and materials. Most recently I have been working on large scale, complex projects so Domestic Divinities developed naturally as a counterbalance to this; as a need to experiment with smaller scale sculptures. I wanted to push material and form exploration within my practice and expand my vocabulary. Working in this reduced scale challenged me to create in more intimate and immediate terms; it allowed me to probe more deeply into the personal relationship people have with the world that surrounds them. There is often an animistic approach to our everyday objects, and I notice magic and mystery in some of these connections. A common fascination among men, for example, concerns women’s bags: what is inside them? It is a playful commentary on certain taboos within our society.
At the same time, I have been working on one large sculpture (a 15-foot revolving totem, also in the show) as another way to explore the fulfillment of our needs as human beings living in a modern society. I mean modern in the simplest of ways: current, today's. Each era treads a path that leaves something behind, that loses something. Then we try to compensate for what we are missing. What are we missing today? I think we have no skin with which to ‘feel’ and I think that society today leaves little space for our soul.
Anna Galtarossa, Jellyfish, 2006, Mixed media and variable dimensions; Courtesy the artist and Studio la Città
RR: Divinità Domestiche is a collaboration with curator Maria-Rosa Sossai. Can you talk about the concept behind the exhibition?
AG: Maria Rosa is embarking on an explorative period in her career. She has been experimenting with new methodologies as a curator and critic and asked me to work with her on this research for Domestic Divinities. She was interested in showing the dynamics of what comes before the writing of a critical text. She wanted to dig deeper into an artist’s work and to “travel” with that artist. She followed the creation of the sculptures closely and together we explored some texts that inspired me and others that she related to my work. Then we put everything together in the shape of a scrapbook, elaborating what we collected jointly, through words, images and various materials which I have been using in the sculptures. This is the scrapbook that you see on display in the exhibition.
RR: You have studios based in New York and Verona, how is it to be an artist in Verona versus an artist in New York? Your family has a long history here and seeing Totem in your studio in the family home was impressive, it was surrounded by Italian frescoes and architecture that are centuries old. Does the change in environments influence your work?
AG: My house-studio in Verona is charged with history. It carries many of the classic values of Italian and European art and architecture. It is also in the countryside. To work within this environment is a fantastic exercise. It keeps me in an ongoing dialogue with history and nature in a very organic and intuitive way. In the same manner, in New York I have to keep up with the powerful energy of the city and its challenges, the shows I see and the people I meet. What’s more, in New York I find very different materials than in Italy and as a consequence my work can change substantially. If in Italy I often go to my garden for inspiration and material-gathering, in New York I will go to the 99 cent stores in my neighbourhood.
RR: Yes, the works in the show at Studio la Città have been created from a truly diverse range of materials: pompoms, skirts, wigs, flags, paper wings and plastic dollars! Is the history behind these objects significant? The large totem, for example, has a pile of used shoes around its base.
AG: All the materials I use in my work come from an ongoing collection of new, old, second-hand, natural and personal objects that I have been gathering for years. I’m not really a hoarder but I will collect what inspires me. Sometimes this process takes years and I become aware of an ongoing dialogue between these objects. Sometimes the history of an object is of significance to me but most of the time I look for the more universal qualities that the material possesses. I aim to put these materials into a dialogue that anyone can understand by just looking at them. Everyone will have a different interpretation of my work but it is my intention that there is never a specific reference that the viewer has to be aware of in order to read the work.
RR: You collaborate regularly with Daniel Gonzalez, an Argentinean artist based both in New York and Berlin. How did you come to collaborate and what are some projects you've worked on together?
AG: Daniel and I met in the Prague Biennial in 2005. We were both inspired by each other’s work and were very excited with our collaborative potential. It finally took the shape of a public project: Chili Moon Town, a city of dreams. A 30 foot cubical structure in the shape of a city, a floating structure, which could be visited only by boat. It was born on the waters of Chapultepec Lake, Chapultepec Park in Mexico D.F. and intended as a work that embodies the condition of the dreamer and the traveller. It is a special project sponsored by México Arte Contemporánea, but our plan is for it to continue on a world tour!
The structure has a tunnel which one can row through. It is covered with sequinned images and there are hundreds of floating glass bottles inside which the public can place wishes. In this free city there are no frontiers and its citizens do not migrate, the city itself migrates, carrying the dreams of its people. Futuristic hand made skyscrapers hold “apartments” that are for sale and carry signs that are advertising life experiences, a ghost proclaims on one billboard, “here we believe in dreams!”
Back in Italy, in Lambrate-Milan, we worked on another large-scale project: Homeless Rocket With Chandeliers, a 100-foot crane that, whilst it was being used for construction work, we transformed into a gigantic sculpture with vinyl, neon lights, sequins and inflatable shapes. Each night after work, all its lights would turn on and the crane would emit a jet of smoke as if about to take off… For almost two years, until the actual construction work had been completed, Homeless Rocket With Chandeliers was continuously transformed. Every few months we would add or change parts of it. It became the symbolic center and soul of the neighborhood, a totem if you like, for the local community.
Daniel and I also worked together on a number of smaller scale projects that address the relationships between art and architecture or art and design. We recently worked with Moroso on the transformation of some of their furniture into a landscape for the Galleria Civica in Monfalcone, Italy.
Anna Galtarossa and Daniel Gonzalez, Chili Moon Town, April 2007, Chalputepec Park, Mexico City; Courtesy the artist and Studio la Città
RR: What is your next project with Daniel?
AG: We are continuously working on new projects and on Chili Moon Town’s world tour. A public project of this scale always takes a lot of work and time to realize because of all the paperwork, fundraising and a million other things that have to be arranged.
ArtSlant would like to thank Anna Galtarossa for her assistance in making this interview possible.
-- Rebecca Reeve