On display in Wesley’s Dadian Gallery now through May 12, “The Making of Things” is an aptly titled exhibit of works by three artists for whom art is as much about building as it is about drawing or painting.
Maria-Theresa Fernandes’s works are evocative constructions of photography, fabric, found texts, and stitched lettering that sometimes suggest liturgical tones. Cianne Fragione is represented by abstract works of oil and sculptures shaped from a fascinating range of materials. Nicole Salimbene offers a truly interactive experience with her installation, “Unfolding.”
“As a student in the San Francisco Bay Area, my teachers and mentors used to say, ‘You build a painting,’ or ‘You build a drawing,’” Fragione said. “So we’re always building. Even with a painting, you work from the back forward.”
For the Dadian exhibit, that work included building upon some unexpected media. Three of Fragione’s works include the element of the “repurposed purse.”
“There are powerful things about the purse as an object,” Fragione said. “They’re like altars really. We carry our lives in them. They hold secrets. They hold mysteries. We depend on them.”
The purses appear in different configurations, sometimes as a core element, and sometimes as one element among many. “I like things where I can keep secrets, where I can bundle things,” she said. “And I like it when I can expose things. Sometimes I open it all up.”
The colors and textures of Fragione’s work are inspired from time spent in Italy.
“I was born here, but Italy is my home,” she said. “It’s where my heart is. The color and the surfaces and the textures, it’s part of my genetics.”
Calabria, in southern Italy, proved especially inspiring.
“The colors really seeped in,” Fragione said. “When I arrived, my colors were one way, but then they started to shift. The richness of those browns and yellows and pinks, that’s my palette.”
The artist’s background as a dancer also shows in her work.
“When you’re a dancer,” she said, “you’re always dancing, always working, because there’s going to be a performance at some point and you need to be ready. It’s the same with this. I’m always working.”
The niches found on Italian streets, often housing the statue of a saint, inspire her current projects. “The pieces that I’m finishing now are sort of building around the edges of that sacred center, with light, gesture, movement, words,” she said.
In Nicole Salimbene’s “Unfolding,” visitors sit and contemplate projected images of water and rifle through the contents of the innumerable envelopes that help define the space and the experience.
“There’s a lot to be offered if you are just taking the quick glance,” Salimbene said. “But hopefully, your curiosity will be piqued by all the envelopes on the wall. Knowing that there are different things in each of them might draw you in for a bit.”
She is especially pleased to have this contemplative experience presented on a seminary campus.
“It’s interesting to be at Wesley,” she said. “It’s a seminary; contemplation should be built into the curriculum. It’s a place where the idea of contemplation and art should not be unusual.”
“Unfolding” reflects Salimbene’s personal theology.
“The poems and the passages and the quotes that you’ll find in the envelopes reflect my spiritual beliefs,” she said. “I’m a Christian, and grew up Catholic, but I don’t belong to a particular church. I like to take a mediating approach through different spiritual traditions.”
She hopes that the work provides what its title suggests.
“It might be in your relationship to the physical objects,” she said. “It might be in relationship with yourself, with light, with God, with spirit. It’s a chance to look at how that action of unfolding takes hold in your life.”
“The Making of Things” is on exhibit at the Dadian Gallery through May 12. A Reception and Artist Talk will be held Thurs., April 20 at 4:30 p.m. The Dadian Gallery is part of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley.