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Meet the Artist: Rebecca Memoli

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On View at Mulberry Street Library from March 5 through April 28, 2012 are paintings by the artist Rebecca Memoli. The series, called Evaluation, is influenced by Dutch Golden Age still life. Evaluation is a visual meditation on an emotional state or situation in the artist's life. Although still-lives are traditionally created void of narrative, these pieces infer a subtle narrative using everyday objects. Often dirty, used, dank, or broken, the objects resonate with emotion and history. The combination of photography and painting allows these mundane objects to be romanticized, giving them a radiance that did not originally exist. Although the symbolism is personal, the emotions associated with these works are not uniquely the artist's. In sharing her dark thoughts and desperate times, Memoli hopes to connect with her viewers and perhaps gain insight into her own pain to begin healing.

Fish on MondaysFish on Mondays

Q & A with Rebecca Memoli

When and how did you become interested in painting as a medium?

I started working with the combination of photography and painting in 2007. I think the main reason for exploring it was out of desire to use digital printing in a way that's not just a replacement for traditional printing. When I was in school, I was obsessed with traditional color printing. After graduating, I realized just how expensive that medium is but wasn't excited about working in digital. I like to use digital photography as a platform, and integrating the painting allows that to happen. You simply can't produce the same piece using traditional photographic media. Digital printing on its own to me is cost efficient, yes, but not that exciting. Digital printing isn't easier by any means, but I miss going to shows with actual gelatin silver and traditional c-prints. When I do see them I am very excited.

Why the still life as your choice of expression for these works?

Most of my previous work required many models and scheduling. It was stressful. I do like photographing people — there's a different kind of connection you make with a person as a photographer that can be absolutely magical. Doing still life is a completely different process. With these pieces, I can set them up and leave them for hours, and take my time to find the lighting and composition. I also wanted to create a more self reflective project, because my previous work was about exploring the fantasies of other people. The next logical step for me was to look inward and open myself up to allow people to see me. Objects hold so much history for me. Its a way for creating people without having them present. The objects I use in the pieces remind me of people or experiences in my life, and because of that, my relationship to those objects change.  It's like seeing the face of an ex-lover in the reflection of a dirty kitchen knife. I like nostalgia.

Tell me about some of your previous artworks and mediums you've explored?

My previous work is a bit more humorous than this current project, although I think my sarcastic sense of humor still comes through. The project previous to this one was based on phone-sex conversations I had while working briefly as a phone-sex operator. That project is more multimedia — it includes sculpture, video, and installation. I like working with video and installation. It requires a whole different method of problem solving.

How does curating work inform your work as an artist?

Organizing artists and curating shows lets me view other artists' work process. It's important to see how other people work, to note the differences. The artists I've worked with inspire me. Putting group shows together is also an exercise in seeing and making connections, noticing the nuances of individual pieces and how to place them to create a coherent show.

The Witchery of CookingThe Witchery of Cooking

What would you like to explore next in your artwork?

I have been experimenting with gum bicromate, a non-silver photographic process that uses watercolor pigment. It reminds me of painting on photographs, but it is closer to the traditional side of photography. I've missed working with toxic chemicals and negatives. I have started a portrait project using that medium. It'll be fun to work with people again, but I'm a little nervous about it. People are not objects. I have also been kicking around the idea for another, very silly project. I think that's all I will say about that one for now...

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Interesting! How do you go about finding an artist for an exhibition at the library? Just curious but artists might want to know....

Recruiting artists

We find the artists through a variety of ways...I've placed calls for submissions on the Nonsense NYC and Third Ward listservs. I go to gallery openings and talk to artists there. And many times artists, approach us directly at the library. If you are interested in having an art show at Mulberry Street, stop by the branch sometime!

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