Cella Neapolitan                                                          

                                                 Fine  Art  Photography 

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   Artist Statement



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"Plate Spinner, Fate Spinner"

Mixed Media Assemblage      4 x 6 in.      Wood box with vintage materials

 This piece was created for the Treasure Postcards Project organized by Washington DC’s Arts for Global Development.  To celebrate International Women’s Day March 8, female artists from around the world were asked to donate a postcard-sized piece to an exhibit whose sales would benefit women’s shelters in Washington DC and Istanbul, Turkey.  The theme was broadly defined as “emphasizing the importance of arts in empowering women, creating awareness on vital issues related to girls and women, and celebrating their achievements.”

 I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend, homemaker, artist, photographer, feminist, advocate, writer, thinker, dancer, confidant, manager, volunteer, organizer, walker, philosopher, reader, collector, singer, mender, encourager, lover, dreamer.  I've been more ... and less ... and will continue to be.  Art in mixed media is a recent, highly-prized wellspring.

 Woman as plate spinner often comes to mind as I strive to maintain these various roles as well as my own balance.  Given the fortune-telling look of the drawer's paper ~ expressing perhaps one's "fate" at birth ~ I chose translucent "plates" to indicate the personal spin we apply to color our so-called fate.










                  "Icon: St. Cecilia"                 "Icon: St. Catherine of Alexandria"

Mixed Media Collages 8 x 10 in. Rose Canvas with Image Transfer, Vintage Paper + Button

This series had a roundabout evolution, which began with inspiration from an annual Sacred Art exhibition at BoxHeart Gallery in Pittsburgh.  These pieces are two of 30 that were juried into the show out of 150 entries.  I am happy and proud of the fact that one is also being featured in the publicity.

As a child, I loved reading the Lives of the Saints book.  Like original fairy tales, there was often a fascinating combination of the beautiful and the horrific in these stories.  An iconography developed that reflected this dichotomy and was then reflected in holy cards.  Saint Catherine, for example, is usually pictured resting her arm on the wheel of torture used against her.

 I was inspired by these biographies of heroes and heroines.  And I am intrigued by the rationale for saints being patrons of one thing or another.  Saint Cecilia is patron saint of music and throats, and Saint Catherine is patron saint of mechanics and philosophers.  These are their stories, as written along the canvas edges:

  St. Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman who was martyred in 180 A.D.  Legend has it that her executioner fled after trying unsuccessfully to behead her three times.  Cecilia survived another three days in prison, literally singing God’s praises, leading to her patronage of musicians.  She is often pictured with musical instruments.

St. Catherine achieved her unusual duality by virtue of convincing arguments for Christianity and by breaking the Breaking Wheel itself just by touching it.  While her historical reality is questioned, the legendary St. Catherine was born to the Governor of Alexandria circa 287 and was condemned to death by the Roman Emperor Maxentius.

 The images transferred are vintage holy cards, which in turn are line drawings of Raphael paintings.  Framing each transfer is a gold-embossed page from an antique photo album, accented with a brass button lyre and wheel, respectively.


"Plight  of  the  Bumblebee"

Mixed Media Assemblage         4 x 16 x 5 in.       Wood shelf with vintage materials

The title, of course, is a play on the Rimsky-Korsakov composition.   On this garden “stage” the bee is central in that it pollinates so many flowers, fruits and vegetables.   And yet, it is prevented from entry to the garden by the stage’s curtain.   A dusting of mica flakes represents the “pretty poison” that we humans use in lieu of working with nature.

 These ballerinas could be named Pistil and Stamen, for they have replaced these critical elements of botanical reproduction in the flowers’ centers.   

We've accomplished some marvelous things in agriculture, but are they healthy?  

Why are bees disappearing from the Earth?


  "Let  a  Style  Be  Your  Umbrella"

Mixed Media Collage         14 x 18 in.     Canvas with vintage pattern, button + more

 The subtitle for this piece is “Respect Yourself” because of the value of honoring our idiosyncrasies in developing a style.  To quote another circa-1970 song, “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do.”  These songs have particular resonance for me, having grown up in a suburban environment that valued conformity over individuality.

 As a visual artist, I feel I follow an inner muse that may surprise even me at times but must be heeded for a project to feel right … and be truly art.  As a child advocate, I believe strongly in allowing individual expression to flourish in any arts activity.  Having a style is more than fun, although it is this indeed, it’s strengthening … a kind of umbrella against the inevitable rain in life.   As the simulated news article says:

 This artwork arose from a coincidence so eerie that this reporter still has chills.  The story begins in a Goodwill store. The Barbie gown caught my eye, but it was $5.99 since it was on a doll.  Couldn’t justify it, but about a week later, there it was, all by itself and only $.99 … had to get it!  It’s so crazy-looking and over-the-top and quintessentially Barbie. About a week after that, the newspaper had an article about Betsey Johnson’s prom dresses, and this is the accompanying photo.  Wow!  Here’s to Barbie & Betsey and daring to be different & fun ……………………………………………….……….....................


 "Georgia and Me  (Our Eyes a Mirror)"

Mixed Media Collage 9x12 in. canvas framed to 14x17 in. + signed on vintage horn button

In a discussion with friends about our favorite women artists, I realized that Georgia O’Keeffe was mine.  She was such an exquisite painter, with the courage and talent to paint simply beautifully.  Yet there’s a power to her work that few artists have accomplished.  I also love how elegantly she writes about her work.  She gets to the heart of matters.

 Studying O’Keeffe has deeply, subconsciously informed my photographer’s eye.  Over the years, I have noted similarities in composition between some of my images and her paintings.  Never was this a conscious act ~ to go out and shoot “an O’Keeffe” ~ rather the affinity has revealed itself in some of my favorite photographs.

 For this collage, I chose four sets of images that show her influence on my work, with the subjects of clouds, ladders, skyscrapers, and poppies.  What surprised me in this collection was the overall unity of palette, enhanced by the sandy substrate, a nod to O’Keeffe’s beloved American Southwest.  Surprising, too, was how well the image transfer worked ~ a portrait by Alfred Stieglitz onto one of her skull paintings.

 In another piece, the photoConstruct “Frida and Me (Our Eyes a Mirror),” what Kahlo and my eyes mirror is resoluteness in the face of pain.  In “Georgia and Me,” I like to think that what our eyes mirror is a way of looking at things that is childlike in its simplicity, honesty and wonderment.



“Gather Ye Pearls While Ye May”

Mixed Media Collage 12 x 12 in. canvas with capiz shells, vintage image + mica flakes

A friend of mine is turning sixty this year, a friend whose generosity is unparalleled.  Celine’s gifts of time and talent and energy and cooking and, well, so many things have made everyone lucky enough to know her feel beloved.  Everything she does is so thoughtful, which is to say artful, that I knew I wanted to make some art of my own to regale her with on this special occasion.

 Celine and I are both “mermaids,” and one of her recent gifts was a little can of oysters with this vintage mermaid image.  I had just found the six gold-trimmed capiz shells at a thrift store, and as I looked at them together, the twist on the “rosebuds” line came to me:  “Gather ye pearls while ye may.”   The six shells, of course, represent Celine’s six decades of life, but I also love how they ~ and their negative space ~ look like a snow crystal.  Mica flakes add sparkle to the bubbly blue paper, and black scalloped lace forms the minimal frame.  My signature, as in the “Georgia and Me” piece, is written on a button … this time, naturally, one of mother-of-pearl.



“Contented Women Vote”

Mixed Media Collage  9 x 12 in. canvas framed to 14 x 17 in.

Several things happened in this election year that led to my making this piece for my Mother, whose birthday is in November and who has always been active in politics.   First, I saw the movie “Iron-Jawed Angels” about suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.  Then, I received in the mail a packet of old photographs and clippings that a friend of my Mother’s had saved.  One I hadn’t seen before, the newspaper photo here of her League of Women Voters campaign with the caption “Seek New Voters.”   Then, in a completely unrelated Internet search, I happened upon this New York Times review of the 1895 play “A Contented Woman,” with this passage:

The audience judgment was a favorable one … of this newest satire on one of the most prominent of women’s fads, the suffrage question.  In this play Mr. Hoyt brings the people face-to-face with a picture of the woman suffragist, shows what she looks like and what she is, and the woman who is content to remain at home happy in her domesticity and her husband’s affection.

 Finally, I heard on TV that 2008 marks the 88th year of women voting.  What a lengthy fad!  The buttons in the piece are from a collection my Mother gave me years ago and remind me of a bracelet she had of red-and-purple stones.  Contrary to the review’s finale, she never had to “give up all that is womanly and domestic” in order to be politically active.  Today, about to turn 82-years-old, my Mother is president of her seniors’ apartments resident council.


“Everyone’s  Homeland”  

Mixed Media Collage     9x12 in. canvas, framed to 14x17 in.

 Vintage map + button, with thumb piano keys, Botswana agates + African sand beads

This piece was created for donation to the New York City benefit "All for Africa."  I learned of the event from my brother Mike, whose company is one of the sponsoring corporations. 

My love for Africa was sparked by reading “Cry, the Beloved Country” in high school, fueled in my rock-tumbling days by my favorite stone, Botswana agates, and deepened in recent years by awareness of how special the continent is.  Poverty, disease, war and famine are destroying this most beautiful of places. 

In creating this piece, I pondered why I feel so drawn to Africa , a place I’ve never visited and which holds no familial ancestry.  I think the tug comes from knowing ~ not just intellectually but on some deep genetic level ~ that humanity was born in Africa.    Hence the compass lines laid over the map, which double as lines of human emigration outward and lines of global attention inward.  It is my hope that consciousness of our commonality can begin to reverse the plagues on Africa, which after all is everyone’s homeland.

New Century Books & Goods  

Mixed Media Collage     12x12 in. canvas, framed to 15x15 in.

 Vintage dictionary cover, 'book' entries, brass chain, beads & trinkets

This piece was made as a gift for the owner of a local shop called New Century Books & Goods.  Susan is so much more than a bookseller and not just because of the “goods” she offers in unique jewelry, candles, rocks, music, crystals and wind chimes.  It’s also the good she offers in a safe place for troubled teens, a community bulletin board and table, and a networking base for countless positive works in our town.

 So when I came upon this © 1927-1957 dictionary in an antique store, I knew I would somehow share it with her.  And when she gave me some vintage trinkets from her uncle’s estate, this collage started to form.  It came together with a little help from the dictionary’s page on ‘book’ and related entries as well as a brass chain to hold some of Susan’s, and my own, trinkets.   The finishing touch was presenting it to her the day after her birthday.

“Dwell Among the Beauties and Mysteries of the Earth”

  Mixed Media Assemblage  9 x 5 x 3 in.  Vintage wood box filled with natural treasures

This piece is made in the spirit of Joseph Cornell, an artist I discovered later in life, at the Guggenheim in Venice, and to my eternal joy. 

 This piece is titled in the spirit of Rachel Carson, whose full quotation is:  “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.”  It felt right to me to include things animal (egg and porcupine quill), vegetable (peach, flower and tree) and mineral (Botswana agate, fluorite crystal and two seashells).

 This piece is dedicated to the spirit of Jessi Thatcher Wilson, a young wife and mother I never met.  A mutual good friend often brought me some of Jessi’s LUCKY eggs, especially the green ones for our love of Dr. Seuss.  Jessi dwelt among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth, and so do I. 

“Maia’s Kickin’ It!”        

     Mixed Media Assemblage   10 x 10 in.     

 White Wood Box with Soccer Girl Trophy and Ten Symbols of Interest

 Maia is my soccer-star niece whose brings her natural enthusiasm to many things.  As she turns ten this year, she said what she wanted most for her birthday was artwork from me.  WOW, did this make me happy!

 The energy in the trophy figure suggested completing the kick to include some of the many things Maia loves.  Counter-clockwise from the ball are:  a button with pencils, which she collects; an eraser, another collection, of a dog that could be her Nala; cupcakes for her enjoying baking with me whenever I visit; treasure piece from the electronic Dungeons & Dragons game I brought this summer and Maia just loved (also she’s a treasure); a button with hula girl because we learned the dance together after her trip to Hawai’i; Botswana agate that I tumbled long ago because she loves rocks and this is one of my very favorites; The Elves and the Shoemaker book for Maia’s love of reading and of helping; seashell that we found together when we were in Florida and Maia filled two grocery bags; Piece-of-Eight replica to represent her coin collection; and ceramic crayon pin that I wore 30 years ago as a child caregiver.  It is intentionally placed “at hand” for Maia loves art.  Once, she was torn between becoming an artist or a veterinarian.  Then she realized, “Wait, I am already an artist!”  I love you, Maia.

“Neapolitan Suite”

  Mixed Media Collage        13 x 13 x 2 in.   

Canvas with photo transfer, ink, vintage charms + ice cream package, Neapolitan + sugar cane papers, set in grass basket sprinkled with raw sugar

My final mixed media piece of 2008 was requested by my husband Jerry for his Christmas gift.   I thought it would be easy, as I had naturally been collecting things “Jerry” and “Neapolitan” for some time.  However, I was challenged to not only limit these things but also make this artwork as special as my husband is to me.

 Enter our son Matt, also an artist and fortunately here for Christmas.  He expertly prepared the photo image, saw the resemblance between treble clef and cat, and generally edited the piece to be the graceful suite I hoped it to be. 

 The “J” above Jerry’s head is from the bottle of Jordan champagne we shared to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary November 24, 2008 .  Sweet!