Of Limes and Camouflage – Victoria DeBlassie

Of Limes and Camouflage – Victoria DeBlassie,
F_AIR’s resident January – May 2013
curated by Lucia Giardino
May 28th – June 14th, 2013
opening on May 28th 2013, h. 6.30 PM

The stay in Italy of Victoria DeBlassie, as a result of a Fulbright Scholarship award, has been a context in which she could build upon a theoretical aspect of research based on the recycling of orange peels, a practice that DeBlassie has been using since the beginning of her career. One might say that the very thought and daily practice of reusing the peels of this precious fruit have been the catalyzing force behind her artistic drive and has brought her to seek new solutions and techniques and means of expression.

In her theoretical studies, Victoria finds that oranges in Italian culture, dating back to the Italian Renaissance, are historically associated with luxurious wealth and opulence, and with the joy and fortune that its golden color exudes, a perfect mimic of the sun itself. In Renaissance gardens oranges allude to happy and fruitful events, but in the past it was also a fruit to which few had access. These gardens as loci amoeni exclude the outside world with schemes that open the mind to abstract geometry, and are reserved only for the elite. The interpretation of the orange as once being an elitist fruit that has now evolved into a readily available commodity found in supermarkets is key in this exhibition: in fact, the wryly subversive idea of repurposing established systems of value and class and giving the fortune that once was reserved for so few back to such a vast public is integral to understanding DeBlassie’s work. This gift and its generosity transcend and supplant time. This convergence of past and present are fundamental to Of Limes and Camouflage, which is composed of wall pieces and installation works where the dominating elements are warm colors of the sun, the fruits that most resemble it, and the visible gradations and developments marked indelibly by the passage of time felt and experienced by all manner of objects and organisms with a skin or a surface on which to show it, from overgrown Renaissance gardens to moiré- mimicking mesh packaging for mass produced oranges to the impossibility of a perfectly translated story. Material, for DeBlassie, is a type of language that tells a story of change and relationships.

DeBlassie collects and afterward processes the perfumed peels now using Italian tanning techniques to transform the orange peels into a new leather. She stitches the tanned peels together in order to make a pliable material with limitless structural and architectural capabilities. She has been applying various crafts techniques to orange peels since she was a teenager with a developing interest in creative reuse of material and textural, formal transformation.  When she was a teen, at the end of the frequent family brunches occurring on Sunday, Victoria assigned herself the role of tidying up; she collected the meals’ leftover fruit peels and explored ways of providing new postprandial meaning to those otherwise useless skins and rinds and husks, in order to extend but also transmogrify the joy and ongoing developmental growth and evolution found during those gatherings. Melancholic, yet social, Victoria liked to “weave” large, intensive tapestries inspired by these meals of increasing impermanence. Saving the peels, renovating the life of the fruits, and sculpturally translating the presiding power of these experiences allowed for a continuation of the feast, preserving and honoring a private taste of the flavors and smells of a past to which one can never return but is wholly formed by regardless.

DeBlassie emphasizes the convivial dimension surrounding the genesis of her practice, and in Of Limes and Camouflage, the “social” and “participative” aspects mark the beginning and the development of her project, becoming almost a pretext from which to explore the complex dynamics of building meaningful relationships in a foreign country. In a language which is not her own, she asks friends and acquaintances to save the leftovers for her. With a request for support, ever so appropriately humble, from friends, strangers, and local merchants and vendors alike, Victoria overcame the intimidation of being alien among unknown people, and further edified the interpersonal sociality of her previous work in her Italian project. As the title in fact suggests, the exhibition is not merely about citruses; it is an investigation into personal mimetism and the subtle politics and gestures that complicate blending into not just a foreign country and one’s surroundings as a whole but becoming a part, parcel, and fabric of the entire sociocultural atmosphere in which a person finds him- or herself, where language is a filter, as well as a means of sharing and offering, and a tool to deepen our understanding on the fluidity and protean nature of identity.

opening hours: Mon to Thur 10.00 AM – 4.00 PM, Friday 10.00 AM – 3.00 PM

Photos by Silvia Mancini ©