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Laconia Gallery


And a peculiar mourning it was.

Lisa Costanzo

Friday, August 27, 2010 to Sunday, September 26, 2010

Card of woman facing away

Laconia Gallery presents a solo exhibition by Lisa Costanzo of a yearlong project incorporating painting, installation and sculptural objects based on a single, specific event. A tour de force of concentrated focus, this body of work presents a narrative of separation, loss and rejuvenation. Played out through painted portraits filled with costumes and romantic victorian stagecraft, Costanzo embeds and repeats her own image to mourn her own breakup. Inhabiting another era the artist references the stories of Austen, Bronte, and Shelly from a very personal perspective.

Costanzo tempers her romantic vision through her fascination with the film, The Bride of Frankenstein, an apt metaphor for “a perfect union, miscommunication, rejection, and ‘the couple’ violently destroyed.” The horror movie fantasy and atmosphere keeps the strength of the expression from tipping into melodrama.

Costanzo has chosen the palette and intensity of Goya reduced into paired down compositions inspired by Manet to express heart-wrenching loneliness and loss. Masterful paint handling and structural underpainting reinforce the figures and the tension pictured in both the full length self-portrait series and the small, delicately rendered objects wrought with symbolism. A series of large canvases depict the artist, isolated in a dimly lit space, costumed in a black victorian mourning dress and hat. A group of small paintings of stacks of wax-sealed letters which also appear in the round as props are introspective transcriptions of a much colder contemporary form of communication: text messaging.

In another twist, wallpaper patterns of text and repeated silhouettes create a vintage domestic backdrop which allows the gallery to momentarily become an environment where transformation and recovery emerge. Stormy and emotive, the works create an extended narrative loaded with detail and mystery which tempts us to read between the lines of the love letters.

– James Hull, Curator