CREATURA: In Limbo

About prints in “Creature Botaniche: Human and Plant Forms Conjoined"

My gaze settles on different features as the foregrounds and backgrounds seem to go in and out of focus. It’s a perceptual experience that’s ambivalent - tentative, shifting between revealing and concealing something about the human and botanical forms. I have an urge to fuse them - humans and plants –to mend, heal something in these …like printed prayers. I imagine the ink, images and paper pressing a warp and weft, making a tapestry celebrating and cautioning our conjoined fates. I'm trying to achieve imagery that is beautiful enough to dwell on... prompt the viewer to linger and consider a question.

I’ve been prompted recently to think about these prints in the context of archetypes. At the crossroads of aesthetic experience and archetype I find myself at “beauty”.

 Beauty is a prickly issue...it seems, that if a thing is too easy to look at, it runs the risk of becoming invisible, and conversely if the form and subject matter are simultaneously too disturbing then the viewer may not linger. Consider Francis Bacon's or Soutine's ghastly carcasses, clothed in such gorgeous paint – I’ve found myself transfixed for hours. The conventional nude, because it’s all about gaze and notions of beauty, offers a sort of short cut to the vast inventory of art historical references and also to the contemporary debate about objectification, appreciation, appropriation and acquisition. Nudes are simply a quick and dirty way to problematize your work. From the standpoint of archetypes which concern themselves with both generalizations and epitomizations, the anonymity of the figure as an 'everyman' and its ideal presentation serve as an axis for spinning narrative. And here I find myself again at Beauty, and this time for its own sake.

About Process - “Creatura” Series

Each of these is a monoprint. Within this series – Creatura Botanica, each print is different. They vary both in color and imagery. There are six botanical plates from which the plant prints are pulled: Hydrangea, Nasturtium, Wisteria, Quince and Beech (two plates). With each printing and inking they may change a good deal - the color palette as well as subtle or salient aspects of the composition. The botanical plates are matched with the body imagery and so the couplets are formed. For example: Hiding Quince or Peering Beech. These pairings too have changed over time and new ‘matches’ present themselves.

 The plates are collagraph, made with impressions taken from plants in our gardens and woods. Technically these are closest to “collagraph carborundum” prints. Collagraphs have the distinction of being textured, in this case they have enough “topography” to deliver an emboss. In sequence, the photographs are printed on an Ultrachrome printer with pigment-based ink onto cotton rag paper. The botanical plates are then inked, and then photographic prints are pulled with botanical plates on etchings presses to create a fusion of two print processes combining human and plant forms. All processes are archival.

 About  “Creature Botaniche: Piante e Forme Umane Congiunte”

 A number of the prints here in “Creatura: In Limbo” are from “Creature Botaniche: Piante e Forme Umane Congiunte”, a series that was on display in Italy last spring at Castello di Galeazza in Crevalcore. The body and botanical prints were prepared for different venues within the castle complex, and the ones here on canvas were prepared for interiors. These were shipped as prints and then mounted at castello. Wooden stretchers were built, once stretched with canvas, the cotton prints were adhered using archival polymers creating 12 prints ranging in size from 2 x 3 feet, to 5 x 6 feet, –  this group hung in a formal dining room. Another group of 10 prints were prepared for a stone stables, an arched vestibule and an entryway. Because they needed to tolerate considerable changes in temperature and moisture levels,they were prepared with wax. Using raw bees wax sourced from a candle maker in Bologna, we worked for more than  a week in a stone barn with wax bubbling on hotplates and with brushes, scrapers, irons and heat guns, the cotton paper prints were fused to canvas.  Once adhered to canvas, surfaces were burnished with leather to bring them to a satin polish.  Our grometted canvases were then laced to plum branches and suspended from 20 foot ceilings in the stone structures.

Creatura was intended as a 6-month exhibit but only hung for 4 weeks until it was closed abruptly by the earthquakes that shook the Emilia-Romagna region north of Bologna in April 2012. Some of the prints that you see here are a selection of those salvaged from the earthquakes. The prints on stretched canvas were cut off the stretchers for transport to the US and then were trimmed for display on metal strapping with magnets. This particular hanging has been designed so that the canvas can be re-stretched on stretchers or may continue as they are. The ones with bees wax can also be displayed as they are, or can be framed.

Sadly ‘castello’ an 800 year-old castle has been closed indefinitely. but a number of pieces from the Crevalcore show remain in Italy, in the collection of Corte Eremo in Mantova, the new home of the show‘s curator Clark Lawrence and Reading Retreats in Rural Italy. These were exhibited at Casa del Mantegna, in “Clark’s Collection” in Mantova – May and June with works by German photographer Sven Fennema, and Greek and Ukrainian painters Pavlos Habidis and Juri Zurkan. Website: www.dinapetrillo.com.  http://www.galeazza.com/en/art_petrillo.php.

Like a creature itself, this body of work continues to change and I’m regularly surprised by what it yields, both in possible meanings/significances and the raw material of imagery. The plants that emboss the human figures in Creatura, have found their way from two dimensions to three and populate the menu of Maine Botanicals, Belfast Bay Shade Company’s flagship fine art lampshade line showing in two New York City markets at the Javits Center in January and August. It would seem these prints may yet yield more adventure. Thanks for looking!          
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