Signs that change buildings

Rosanna Albertini about Fiona Connor

They look exactly like the ones stuck near the sidewalk. Yet they are something else. An artist made them anew and brought them into her small apartment: one has long legs, must lean on the wall. Others sit on contentment. Never, they had never seen a house from inside. Words painted on them get quiet, what for? The LIVING MODERN of Brighten Villas lies down on the floor replacing the bed. What? They are supposed to compete! And scream their message, and help make money. “See what happened in a New Zealand artist’s brain?” the naked pole mumbles. “She brought me here with all of you, all dressed up with colors, and I have none. Who am I?”


Maybe the oceanic distance of the New Zealand islands from all inhabited lands molds people’s thoughts as it does with birds and trees. They also think on their own. Fiona Connor is from Aotearoa New Zealand, and is of British descent.

“And the bird arrived from the other side of the world

 its flight so tiring the sun was scared it would be eaten,

  the bird fell to my feet and I carried it to the sea 

and cut open its stomach full of stones. 

The stones are now my eyes, 

white like my mother’s hair.”

From Tagata Kapakiloi, Restless People, by John Puhiatau Pule

In Los Angeles, Fiona’s eyes, ears still carry the native stones. History’s clock slows down. She records and prints conversations from which the stones erased the talkers’ names. “I replicate already existing objects,” she says, “materials and forms from a not very far past, usually neglected, mostly not worth looking at: benches, steps, real estates signs.”


FC     To best understand a building, in addition to approaching it from the outside you have to be inside and look out. It is dependent on the environment it sits within.

RA    Same with objects? You try to be inside them?

FC    So interesting to discover the varnish quality, history of materials, the time they were produced, by whom, as well as cultural history, the taste of a different time.

ANDRE GIDE    Infinite receptivity of matter – porosity. The immaterial world – with infinite complications – fights against the matter’s brute memory, inertia postponed, apparent docility, until the matter becomes completely impregnated with it, changed. Passivity stops when the matter is traversed by an idea. (My loyal, true alteration of a real text by Gide)

RA    Trees peeled off  by Giuseppe Penone to touch their marrow have the white charme of new born creatures. Your replicas are not a modified original, they only show the original look, usually quite ruined, they are illusions! Physical ghosts and objective demostrations at once. Aren’t you afraid of being completely absorbed by the objects you are observing?

Walking on the seashore, Fiona stops by a small pile of clothes admirably folded: shorts on the shoes on the shirt in an impermanent, vertical sculpture. She clicks her phone. She is not afraid. What her art brings up is a reversed magnet redirecting her and our attention. If you are patient enough, you can discover how in Claude Lévy-Strauss words:

CLAUDE LEVY-STRAUSS    The same mind which has abandoned itself to the experience becomes the theater of mental operations which, without suppressing the experience, nevertheless transform it into a model to release further mental operations. In the last analysis, the logical coherence of these mental operations is based on the sincerity and honesty of the person who can say, like the explorer bird of the fable, ‘I was there; such and such happened to me; you will believe you were there yourself,’ and who in fact succeeds in communicating that conviction.


 Photos: Peter Kirby

An American painter in Rome

LUCAS REINER encounters ancient timeless art – thoughts about it

photo 12



Underpainting on panels



Pines of Rome

Ladders of Divine Graces

Ascend / Descend

Umbrella crowns

Clouds upon which angels dance

in Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva built

upon the foundation of a temple dedicated to Isis

Filippino Lippi fresco

Seen as if through a giant key hole

the columns and the images of columns /


and the sky starts swirling

LUCAS REINER, red roman pine, 2014  watercolor on paper

LUCAS REINER, red roman pine, 2014 watercolor on paper




Bianca Sforni from New York


BIANCA SFORNI, Wood, Woods, Wood, 2014 Courtesy of the artist

BIANCA SFORNI, Wood, Woods, Wood, 2014
Courtesy of the artist

With the same wonder of the first travelers that reached the Pacific coasts we still, today, look at the Orient. After a quite long time in Los Angeles with its precarious balconies facing Japan, pushed by curiosity I crossed the ocean by plane, and landed in the mysterious island of Cipango.*

Not the celebrated cherry blossoms were waiting for me there, but a magic landscape that unfolded first. It was December 2003. The surreal shapes of a few cycads, in their elegant winter robes, komomaki, became the subject of five black and white photographs.

Trees isolated against a very velvety black background, to investigate the potentiality of human perception; combining the naturally ephemeral character of the image with its magical qualities.

The subject alone holds our soul.

 Trees, enlarged/diminished by photographic process, are a plastic representation of the real subjects.

A tree, axis mundi, is the link between the underworld, into which it plunges its roots, and the celestial spheres where its branches are stretched out.

Tree cults, in which a single tree or a grove of trees is worshipped, have flourished at different times almost everywhere on our planet. Even today sacred woods, a set-apart space of nature, are found in India and Japan just as in pre-Christian Europe.

Trees in Japan according to the Shinto tradition are the natural residence of spirits, kami.

Home of the nymphs in the ancient Greek-Roman world, where the belief was spread that, if a tree died, also the nymph dissipated. A metaphor of our human condition?


BIANCA SFORNI, Hollywood juniper, 2002, gelatin silver print, 55" x 67" 1/2 Courtesy of the artist

BIANCA SFORNI, Hollywood juniper, 2002, gelatin silver print, 55″ x 67″ 1/2
Courtesy of the artist


Without trees we cannot survive. Evergreen plants are considered sacred: it’s assumed they symbolize eternal life. The laurel, Daphne, junipers and firs, cypresses and palms, whose legends and iconography traveled from Mesopotamian cultures to Judaism to the Roman world. Because Cycads** were already extinct in the Mediterranean*** and surrounding regions, they are not mentioned by Aristotle’s disciple Theophrastus, but they have a long history in gardens of several parts of Asia not only for their beauty, also as symbols of longevity. They grow very slowly and live very long; some specimens are known to be as much as 1,000 years old. Because of their superficial resemblance, they are sometimes confused with and mistaken for palms.

The first garden was cultivated when men had chosen to stop their wanderings … but, if we investigate the bonsai, the portable tree, it’s quite possible to imagine that Asian nomadic populations with their caravans had started those trees in a tray as early as the Han dynasty (206-221BC). Paintings of the Sung dynasty (960-1280) depict potted miniature trees that became a fashion during the Kamakura Period (1185–1333), at the time of the great spread of Buddhism in Japan.

The inevitable blending of cultures brought the tradition of miniaturizing trees from Japan to the western world.

The majestic Hollywood juniper, 2002, outcome of many years of tending care by  expert hands,  is a third generation bonsai,  just out of the Los Angeles nights.

A memorial piece for the ones willing to remember the executive order signed on February 19, 1942, by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, which led to the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan. Most of them then living in California.

* Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco PoloIl Milione. ** Cycads, a family of plants which appeared circa 280 million years ago, the age of the earliest found fossil.  *** Paolo de Luca, Dipartimento di Biologia Vegetale, Università di Napoli



Sunday morning


It’s Sunday morning, a hazy day in my mind and around. Hazy enough to project on a white, modest egret on the seashore questions we keep secret because we don’t know the answers. The bird’s perfect modulation of lines is softened by feathers. A living porcelain jumps on the skinniest legs. In front of the white egret equally elegant in all her movements I felt I was seeing music.

No interpretation, no accurate description can have the same impact as the REAL THING. George Steiner: “In humane letters, ‘theory’ is nothing but intuition grown impatient. … But art and poetry will always give to universals ‘a local habitation and a name.’” (Errata)

Language is scared by life as logic is terrified by death. If the brain is not eternal and the human mind is not god, and computers are mainly dynamic containers with no paper, dust or silverfish, we might stop mistaking our head for a hat full of data.

It’s scary to see the nineteenth century phantoms of geometrical and mechanical control – early imperialism and capitalism outcomes – as inhabitants of our time disguised in operative systems, or apparently rational evaluation systems, every time human intelligence is treated like an impersonal engine. RA

This is the way Cuban artist Alexis Lago shows his own way out, drawing the very thin thread of our awareness:


ALEXIS LAGO, Asimetria del saber (Asymmetrical Knowledge), 2013, watercolor on paper, 15" x 11" Courtesy Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles

ALEXIS LAGO, Asimetria del saber (Asymmetrical Knowledge), 2013, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″
Courtesy Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles

ALEXIS LAGO, Sunday Morning, 2012, watercolor on paper, 15" x 10" Courtesy Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles

ALEXIS LAGO, Sunday Morning, 2012, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 10″
Courtesy Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles


“To believe that mankind can find a goal outside itself, and one not projected by itself, would be sheer folly and chasing after one’s shadow. Man’s [and Women’s] progress is only within itself, and hasn’t the victorious significance you think.” André Gide, Reflections




turning thoughts inside out


Notes by HANNAH KIRBY from San Francisco

the context of words is language and language is scary-scopic. google “time famine” to see why i’ve headed this direction.*

with pen & paper
with key + finger

its like i know there’s someone else asking the deeper question. but maybe they only thought of it after i thought the thought. i think we need to be turning our thoughts inside out. dividing the banal with the contemplative equals what?

ordinary life event**
beauty & understanding of the world**

can responsibility be a creative output?
probably not.

*i spend most of my time helping other people.
**words by a. ruppersberg

HANNAH KIRBY, having been divided, (bw), 2014

HANNAH KIRBY, having been divided, (bw), 2014

HANNAH KIRBY, the_underscore, 2014

HANNAH KIRBY, the_underscore, 2014


Rosanna Albertini about Kristin Calabrese

2014: as Picasso had his blue period, Kristin Calabrese is having her black. History marches away from her paintings. Steadily remain  the physicality of brushes and colors, the tension of the canvas, and an artist who has devoted her life force to painting. Since the frame contains her “magic carpet” – as she calls the white surface – which is also her freedom, Calabrese gives form to reflections of any thing the eyes can reach. An urban landscape, a broom, a shadow on the wall, holes in the ground: things as they exist. Painted, they exist in a space of feelings so strong they seem inevitable. Which is of course not true. Over time, images change in anyone’s mind.

Kristin Calabrese, Lights Out  2014, Oil on Canvas,  96" x 144"

Kristin Calabrese, Lights Out 2014, Oil on Canvas,
96″ x 144″

Not long ago Calabrese wanted her paintings flat, with no transparencies. Today she presents Lights Off, 2014, a painting that shows layers of motion in her mind selected by life over several years: at the top, a ceiling painstakingly executed mirrors the real ceiling of her private room (this artist only paints from life); the bottom is pitch black like a cat fur and ends with silhouettes of viewers looking at … something. In real life the something was a piece of fabric horizontally hung between the sides:  it has become a transparent veil holding small flowers floating in the air, and it’s a perfect illusion of reality, it is only there to mitigate an explosion of light from the void. Viewers? They must be blind. Blackness of not seeing, maybe not able to see the secret stories that art and poetry introduce in our lives.

“Black is death,” Kristin Calabrese says with no hesitation. It grows illusionism in her art, while illusions are absent.  Remember?

The Unicorn has no match or mate. /  The artist has no peer. / Death has no peer.  […]

We shall not get to the bottom: / death is a hole / in which we are all buried / Gentile and Jew. 

The flower dies down and rots away. / But there is a hole in the bottom of the bag. 

It is the imagination which cannot be fathomed. / It is through this hole we escape . . 

So through art alone, male and female, a field of flowers, a tapestry, springs flowers unequaled in loveliness. 

Through this hole at the bottom of the cavern / of death, the imagination escapes intact. 

William Carlos Williams, Paterson 

            Calabrese paints flowers and calls them Seen and Unseen, 2013. Or she paints black the flowers themselves, and in the painting they become Depth of Field, 2013 on a rainbow background. So the Red Ink Drawings, 2014, declaring their independence from the pencil-drawn grid they coexist with on the same canvas, are not abstract at all. They are stories at rest, each unique, so still they don’t breath.

(This is the short version of  “Black Moment,” published in C.O.L.A. 2014, City of Los Angeles, p.21)