BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Recently, I was lucky enough to view Sanda Lapage's art exhibit "Berenice’s Garden" at Gowanus Loft. It's both inspired by the beauty and grotesqueness of the natural world, while undercut by the strange sterility of the modern world. The outcome is bizarre--it feels at once familiar and alien all at the same time. I felt like I was Alice going between Wonderland and the real world, whatever real is.
All of the pieces were intensely preoccupied with the idea of healing and transformation of the body--through some kind of death, whether it's physical or emotional. Death and decay are natural, even in a modern, metallic world. Humans, as technology savvy as we are, still cannot put a stop to death. Some of the pieces included small objects, like vials which looked like antidotes; I loved these objects the most because they contain so much implication of power and transformation.
In many ways, the viewer is asked to take possession of their body, of their minds, and to find ways to survive and heal itself, as if the art itself is a magic spell. As such, Lapage is not just an artist, but a modern witch. The chaos of the plants and paint and metal objects meshed together illustrates that there is beauty in small things, in madness, in duality--that life is dualistic in nature, and we cannot try to change that.
Much of the color palette relies on the color white, and the airiness of the space, mimicking the natural world in many ways. At the same time, the blankness of the white contrasts that--as if modernity white washes nature, and our humanity and desires, in many ways. Lapage says she was inspired by the minimalism of socialist architecture--as emotional as the pieces are (like the red splotches of color among the blankness), it is also reserved and quiet.
In addition, she mentioned she was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, stating:
“[I was] inspired by the gothic atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Berenice.' I connect the act of collecting to the Kunst-und Wunderkammern. Juxtaposing anatomical drawings to a collection of natural & man-made wonders, the installation invites the viewer to create intuitive and unexpected connections between objects—which gain a symbolic quality when removed from their purpose or realm, generating meaning that unfolds from drawing, to collection, to object, and back to drawing. The installation is reminiscent of a stroll through an imaginary garden, Berenice’s enclosed herbarium and collection of curiosities.”
It is indeed a collection of curiosities, as is the entire world around us. Lapage is definitely an artist to watch for the years to come.
Sandra Lapage was born in Sao Paulo, Sandra Lapage is Belgian and Brazilian; cultural hybridity is the drive behind her work. She has recently concluded her MFA in Studio Arts at the Maine College of Art. Sandra has exhibited in solo and group shows in Brazil, Europe and the United States, notedly at the Brazilian Embassy in Brussels, in Chelsea/NYC and at the Centro Cultural Sao Paulo, Brazil. www.sandralapage.com