I recently had the pleasure of meeting, and viewing new work by, Miami-based visual artist Gianna Riccardi (@giannaa.riccardii), whose sunny and refined disposition is as welcoming and perceptive as her latest series of dreamy images, Nexus.
All shot in Holland during Riccardi’s sojourn as an intern at Amsterdam’s Studio 13, her pairings of photographs reflect minute details that made up her world while in foreign territory, along with her after-hours free time spent fiddling around alone with colour, black and white, analogue and digital devices inside an inspiring Old World work space.
Quiet, contemplative, composed in pale hues, the photographs that constitute Nexus melt the consciousness into a receptive pool. A basin in which interior axioms and outer stimuli meld together. And from this delicate, cosy state of half-sleep emerge many dichotomies meant to challenge how we’re conditioned to think, understand, see and grow. By depicting marriages between what Riccardi calls “mundane objects and unconventional portraits”, she impresses upon the viewer how many disparate, disjointed, overlooked, under-expressed ideas can and should coalesce beautifully.
One of the seamless splits she presents is that between transparency and opacity. Each picture was printed directly onto plexiglass, with pre-drilled holes for barely-there nail supports. The longer you look, the more you realise you can peer all the way through these floating apparitions, whose layered imagery toys with and limits how deeply we’re allowed to see.
A richly patterned room screen slashes impenetrable angles across an antique interior, a slice of sprightly greenery is glimpsed through the heavy, rusty petals of a floral sculpture, blackest black shadows obscure the innermost curves of goosepimpled thighs. As in life, there’s always more to contemplate, though all the answers never come neatly together.
Riccardi also juggles the contrast of absence and presence. Sometimes a figure resides in the frame, symbolic self-portraits of the artist’s inner-self, and sometimes not. Yet where a body doesn’t lodge linger many hints at human activity. Fading footprints on a pearly sand dune and a thick gob of centuries-old decorative plaster remind us that who we are is all around us, that the little things we observe daily serve to construct our one-of-a-kind points-of-view.
Nexus‘ taupe-washed palette suggests a natural, elegant, almost wistful femininity, while the range of perfectly hung square photos, arranged off-kilter and just-so as to prompt a search for connections, exudes intrinsic strength and an exacting sense of discipline. The series even mashes two of art history’s most fabled genres, still-life and portraiture, with creative possibilities emerging through contemporary embraces of experimentation and individuality.
Perhaps most striking to me is the cohesive distinction between intimacy and exposure in Riccardi’s work. She displays her pieces in a way that forces the viewer to take their time with every coupling, adjusting their stance accordingly with the height of each. Seen as a whole, the corner installation drives the eye towards the smallest photographs in the series, a cherubic statuette versus the artist casting a hard silhouette in profile upon a stool, which only one person can squeeze forward to see at a time.
Getting closer to the images gets you closer to the artist herself, who is purposefully, tactfully, loosing more of her true self into the light. Every photograph in Nexus was captured unthinkingly, simply because Riccardi was drawn to what she saw before her lens at a different time and place. As she pieced them together later for this display, a eureka, hey-this-is-how-I-see-the-world moment helped her identify points where she branches away from her conservative roots, and untrodden paths toward her own sense of artistic maturity. Such disjunctions and conjunctions roundly assure us that seeing differently, being differently, is not just merely okay but sincerely necessary.
For Riccardi, Nexus also presents a journey from where we come from and where we’re destined to go in which the process itself is paramount; her home life, travels and interest in various media throughout art school helping her mount this absorbing series all along.
The subtleties of meaning she achieves in Nexus first sprang from her preparatory drawings — action lines, contours and notes rendered on translucent tracing paper atop experimentally-placed twosomes of her chosen pictures, spread out and accompanied by heartening examples by other artists like Sophie Calle, Wolfgang Tillmans and Lorna Simpson.
Combining multiple talents, modes of interrogation and muses picked up over the years, mounting this meditative body of work has been cathartic for Riccardi. More creatively centred and ready to explore than ever before, she’s now setting her sights on graduate studies abroad and a career in art therapy.
That’s another winding route awaiting embarkation, along which she’ll help others to unburden themselves more comfortably and burn through veils of self-doubt with keen creative fire.