Cabrillo Community College
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Chips & Hieroglyphs: Reimagining Art History
This portfolio [available on request] contains multiple photographs and detailed explanations of 10 works proposed for exhibit. It begins with the show’s centerpiece, “The Jaded Princess.” This life-size burial suit faithfully duplicates the original (Han Dynasty, 140 B.C.) with one exception; the figure is not covered in Chinese Jade but enclosed in 2400 green circuit boards (c. 1970 A.D., Silicon Valley), including a skullcap of bomb detonators. The 10 mixed media works which lead up to the “Princess” are also described and accompanied by photographs. A resume concludes the portfolio.
As implied in the title, each of the pieces uses contemporary materials—computer chips, moldable plastic, early computer readouts, and solar cells, among others— to reimagine 10 ancient and world-renowned works from the cultures of China, Africa, Egypt, Japan, Greece, and France (Mesolithic and medieval eras). Each piece represents a pivotal moment in the history of art—now freshly considered.
Gloria Alford began the series in the 1970s, under the influence of the first waves of Silicon Valley innovation, and in the last 30 years she has continued to be influenced by living in the vicinity of technological advance. In creating these sculptures she found pleasure in ranging over centuries of art history, and in paying homage to works that resonate in surprising ways, both physically and metaphysically, with our own moment.
The new sculptures draw fresh attention to, and expand upon, history, present-day materials helping to clarify the intended meanings of another age. Viewers grasp that they are much like those who lived and created long ago, and learn that the dialogue between past and present, present and past, is ongoing and vital . Self-explanatory icons, (such as those covering the Egyptian stela), allow immediate understanding. The exhibit also reflects the blending of cultures that will be the hallmark of the 21st century, including the West’s spiritual interest in the East and global communication. (One could also mention the enveloping wave.) Viewers receive historical context and artistic comment.
Past audiences of this work have been of all ages and from widely varied backgrounds. The work’s humor, textures, and occasional pop reference make it highly accessible. The ancient is within reach of all, as these new images dialogue with the old. For the public, technology proves able to awaken ancient art, to bridge past and future.