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COLLAGES  2007

 

“Home Sick”                        12 x 16 in.                        Cella Neapolitan 2007

           This piece began with happenstance … in experimenting with transfer techniques, I noticed that the curvature of the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen fit, like a puzzle, with that of the west coast of the Americas in this vintage map.

          Further fitting is the fact that the demeanor of the mermaid ~ of homesickness (for the sea) ~ dovetails with the reality that our home (planet Earth) is, indeed, sick. 

          With this synchronicity in mind, I began to clip relevant headlines and soon realized that they came all too frequently.  “Home Sick” is all too true.  Bringing this collage together was challenging ~ on many levels, including material and philosophical ~ yet quite fulfilling.

          The final act in the creation of “Home Sick” was the placement of the vintage abalone button.  I love that its yin-yang pattern resembles that of land and sea on the Earth.  Sewing button to canvas, I could not help but feel the tug of ancient arts and wonder how women, traditionally home-makers, can now become home-healers.   

 


“Phases of the Earth?                    12 x 16 in.                    Cella Neapolitan 2007

           While 'phases' typically applies to the moon, the concept is as valid and intriguing to our evolving planet.  I only recently learned, for example, that the Earth has had at least two single-continent, "pangaea" phases.  This ancient reality is presented in the top row of images.  The middle row features vintage maps, representing human interaction and interpretation of our planet.  And the bottom row has contemporary photographs of Earth taken from space, the most natural of its images.  

The yin-yang symbol lends both aesthetic and connotative layers.  How like where land meets sea are its lines ...  how strong is it in repetition, ever so slightly shifted ...  how relevant is its balance of different forces, its unity of opposing elements?!  And how cool is it that reversed, as in the final phase pictured, the yin-yang's center line forms a question mark ...

Thanks to my husband for creating this magical globe photograph.  What is the next phase of the Earth?

 


 

“With  Flowers  Gone                    12 x 16 in.                    Cella  Neapolitan   2007

This piece’s title ~ culled from its central line ~ paraphrases Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael:  with flowers gone, will there be hope for man?  As in that amazing book, the words ‘flowers’ and ‘man’ could be reversed with equally deep meaning.

           “With Flowers Gone” began as a vision, one of a skull surrounded by grass, with pools of water for eyes, spewing pollution from its mouth.  I drew the skull from a Day of the Dead mask given by an artist friend.  In one flower’s center is a photograph of my son, experiencing nature as a wide-eyed child.  I couldn’t resist using a sunflower for this purpose and placing it where a sun would be in the composition.

 This son/sun is appropriate because a large part of my environmentalism ~ dating back to Earth Day’s 20th anniversary in 1990 ~ is motivated by a love for our children and their children and so on.  I feel this is my most personal and disturbing artwork to date, sad and exciting at the same time.

 


“My Matisse Piece                    @ 12 x 16 in.                    Cella  Neapolitan   2007

This collaged artist's palette is consciously based on Henri Matisse's 1937 "Purple Robe and Anemones," which I had the good fortune of viewing on exhibit this year.  While that piece is a painting, I chose to construct mine as a cut-paper collage, much as Matisse himself created when he could no longer paint.

In addition to the decorative papers, I incorporated glass bits and a vintage button for the vase . . . and for its water, my photograph of the Mediterranean at Nice, the artist's home in France.  The words are culled from a quote of Matisse's regarding art's function as "a soothing, calming influence on the mind ~ something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue."

 

 

“I bloom … rooted in European soil, routed through Atlantic waters, rooting for the Universal sky”

        Mixed Media Collage       12 x 16 in.        Cella Neapolitan 2007   

Based as it is on my mother’s genealogical work, “I bloom …” is my most personal piece to date.  It is also one of the simplest visually ~ ink on canvas with lace overlay and vintage button accent ~ a deliberate choice for its being childlike.

 The couples’ names are, of course, those of my ancestors … tracing back to Italy , Ireland , England , and Holland … and showing generations of first names that have either fallen out of fashion or continue to flourish in my family today.

 The collage’s title is long but necessary to reflect my feelings of being Old World-rooted, New World-immigrated, and Brave New World-thinking.  I think we all struggle to balance “where we come from” with “who we are.”  At its best, what grows from this ongoing dialogue is as beautiful ~ simple yet complex ~ as a lotus.


“Every Tree is a Giving Tree”

Mixed Media Assemblage  10” (H)  x  3” (D)  x  9 + 14” (W)   Cella Neapolitan  2007

 Fans of the Shel Silverstein book will recognize the allusion in this piece’s title.  While I have enjoyed the beauty of trees since infancy, my understanding and appreciation of the botanical wonders continue to grow. 

To me tree branches often have giving gestures.  I love how this gold figurine’s lines are continued in the arms of the woman in this 1920’s Italian photograph.  Postage stamps featuring trees and a gold leaf charm echo the theme, and vintage pearl buttons not only echo the woman’s necklace but represent the fruits of trees.  The flowers, of course, are presented in the woman’s hands.


“Katrina, Meet Rosie”

  Mixed Media Collage  12 x 12 in.  (frame 15 x 15 in.)     Cella Neapolitan  2007

  When a call for art “in praise of physical labor” was issued, I remembered this photograph of a mural taken in post-Katrina New Orleans .  I have always found Rosie the Riveter an inspiring icon, even more so as she wields a paintbrush.

Art requires more physical labor than commonly recognized, as does NOLA in the wake of the massive hurricane.   My hope for the city’s revival is expressed in the eddy of rivets emanating from Rosie’s fist to counter the hurricane’s arms.  Working with the veil fabric, I realized its resemblance to gauze and felt a healing.  All this happens against the backdrop of news clippings and culminates in the hurricane’s imminent departure, as represented in the vintage blue swirl button.


“Mother to the Woman

  Mixed Media Collage  16 x 20 in.  (frame 18 x 22 in.)     Cella Neapolitan  2007

  A friend of mine says that the things we love deeply often go back to our childhood.  Teresa and I share a love of jewelry (see her vintage button bracelets) and old photographs.  At this year’s junket to the Highway 127 Sale, we found the materials for this piece ~ a vintage button, photographs, cut-steel ornament & chiffon scarf.

The photographs ~ with similar serious expressions ~ suggested the theme, “the child is father to the man.”  Researching the Wordsworth poem, I found that it begins with the words written on the collage, which also describe my reaction to beauty.  As a fellow romantic naturalist, I was delighted to be reacquainted with the 1802 poem:

My heart leaps up when I behold  A rainbow in the sky

So was it when my life began;  So is it now I am a man

So be it when I shall grow old  Or let me die!

The child is father to the man;  And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

 

 


  

 

“Hook Your Man With Product X

Mixed Media Collage 11 x 14 in.  (Vintage Frame 13x16)       Cella Neapolitan  2007

As the lucky recipient of a stack of old LIFE magazines, I pored over them and especially enjoyed the advertisements.  In the 1930’s, for example, many ads were comic strips that told a story, usually preying on some insecurity and offering a product solution.  They also typically were aimed at women.

The funniest to me is the color one in this collage, with Carol declaring, “A new kind of pie tonight or burst!”  I condensed the other two ads to the first and final panels, respectively.  And the little poem came to me as a distillation of the ads’ subtexts.  The title, of course, is yet another distillation.

These ads appeared in LIFE magazine in 1939, “before the war” and the de facto feminism of working women.  So they seem quaint and amusing … and yet a glance at today’s women’s magazines shows that the jingle I composed is not so antiquated:

Hook your man with Product X

Remember we always sell with sex

Face and figure will catch his eye

Reel him in with chocolate pie!

 

 


 

 

 

   

 

LABYRINTH  SERIES  I

    These pieces were created for "Photography : Southeast," a 2008 regional exhibit in Columbia, SC.  I am pleased and proud to be one of a dozen photographers invited and the only one from Tennessee.

“Candlelight”                                    “Fairies”                                    “Moonbeams”

 Mixed Media Collages                  14 x 18 in.  (19 x 23 in. frame)                 Cella Neapolitan 2007

             A friend of mine has built a labyrinth in her woods.  Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no dead ends, no wrong ways nor differing solutions.  It simply offers a winding path to the center and then out again.  Olivia based her design on the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral.  Hers is made of brick and mulch and spans sixty feet.  Significantly, no trees were cut … in fact, several are part of the path.  One tree’s trunk must be hugged to get around it.

           Olivia no doubt sensed our shared love of nature and spending contemplative time there.  She commissioned a photo shoot of the labyrinth on the night of a full moon.  We began at sundown, placed candles on the path for a time, and then removed them for the climactic shot by moonlight.

           The photographs in these collages were taken that April night, time exposures on 35 mm black-and-white film.  After developing in PhotoShop, I printed them in sepia tone on very thin paper so as to meld with the art papers and their textures.  I love that the finishing glaze imparts a sheen reminiscent of antique photographs.

           Having written haiku and tanka on the labyrinth experience, I wanted to incorporate this poetry in the collages.  That was a compositional challenge until I paged through my Chinese and Japanese art books.  I love how poems are often integrated into this art, the lines of calligraphy hanging unevenly, naturally, like wisteria.  In my work, this means the lines are written sideways, but then art often works sideways.

           The Asian format continues in the blocks of rectangles, allowing not only the negative space but also curved lines to shine.  Rather than my usual vintage button accents, I’ve included “trio” pins with dangling, thematic charms.  Finally, my signature also recalls ancient artists in that it’s a symbolic stamp.  My birth name is Catherine Anne Cella, and I realized I could form my initials into the center butterfly.  This signature pays homage to a favorite artist ~ one who also merged Eastern aesthetics into his Western heritage and formed his monogram into a butterfly signature ~ James McNeill Whistler.

“Labyrinth Series I:  Candlelight”

 Charmed with crescent moon, candle lantern, and double swirl

 Circle of firelight

Open to variances

In vessel, brightness

Even an eager tree joins

Can a circle be open?

    “Labyrinth Series I:  Fairies”

 Charmed with fairy, dragonfly, and carved bone full moon

 The full moon above

She walks the labyrinth by night

Candlelight below

A third light appears on film

Did woodland fairies visit?

  “Labyrinth Series I:  Moonbeams”

 Charmed with silver swirl, camera, and aurora borealis glass moon

 The labyrinth awaits

April’s full ‘sprouting grass’ moon

Limned in white powder

To better reflect moon’s light

Can I capture it on film?  

 


 

 

 

     

 

 

LABYRINTH  SERIES  II

 

Near and Far                             Spring and Fall                             Fire and Ice

 Mixed Media Collages                  14 x 18 in.  (19 x 23 in. frame)                 Cella Neapolitan 2007

Some of the photographs in this series were also taken that first April night, others were shot at different times of day, in different seasons, and with different approaches.  Laying the images out to choose for collaging, I noticed that several pairs conveyed opposing, symbiotic concepts.

           That duality brought the paintings of Mark Rothko to mind, so I chose richly-hued lokta papers for the main two rectangles and added a floral inclusion layer for the poetry.  Each collage has three vintage elements ~ a cigarette trading card, spiral lace, and labyrinthine button.  As in the first Labyrinth series, the signature is a stamp with my monogram “CAC” forming the central butterfly.  The painted ground, appropriately, is ground color, the beautiful dark brown of good earth.

   “Labyrinth Series II:  Near and Far”

 Photographs of the labyrinth close-up and from the sky

Walking the labyrinth

Hearing sounds of birds, footfalls

Smelling outdoor air

Through deep, natural breathing

Seeing down, around, within

 

“Labyrinth Series II:  Spring and Fall”

 Photographs of the center on a spring night + of the perimeter with autumn leaves

 Echoes and ripples

Lie between what’s back and forth

Moving through time, space

Life, death, action, reaction

How to measure a lifetime

 “Labyrinth Series II:  Fire and Ice”

 Photographs of the labyrinth lit by candles and covered in snow

Light plays and teases

Awakens and enshadows

From here and there it

bounces mysteriously

I am learning its secrets