“ALBUM OF FLOWERS | INTERESTING TIMES” JUXTAPOSES PAINTINGS OF FLORA WITH COLLAGES OF NEWS TO CHRONICLE A YEAR
On view from September 10 to November 6, 2022
Opening reception Friday, September 9 from 5 to 7 pm
The centerpiece of Catherine Christiano’s first solo museum exhibition is a series of large paintings that chronicle a year. Each of the month’s panels juxtapose carefully painted seasonal flora with a collage of content from The New York Times. The still lifes are placed directly within the context of 2016, the emotionally charged and pivotal election year during which the series was conceived.
The concept of an “Album of Flowers”, of pairing flowers with the months of a year, is common in the traditions of both Eastern and Western art. Because Catherine Christiano wanted to depict local plants and flowers alive, and as if growing in the landscape, she looked towards historical examples by early Japanese and Chinese artists, like Tao Rong (China, 1872-1927) and Katsushika Hokusai (Japan, 1760 – 1849). “I found an aesthetic model in their lyrical flower paintings which often incorporated calligraphy and poetry. As with paintings from the Edo period in Japan, the elegance, space, and rhythm of the layout was important to me in designing my paintings. The Japanese term ma, which means “gap”, “space”, or “pause”, is a concept where the “empty” negative space holds as much weight as the flowers in paintings. The negative space in my series, however, is filled with newspaper imagery and text, forcing everything to the picture plane and filling the “void” with current events.”
The backgrounds, designed to resemble a front page, represent the omnipresent backdrop of societal activities in everyday life. Catherine Christiano sifted through piles of New York Times material from January 2016 through January 2017 to carefully construct the collages. She attempted to present a balance of information from this historically significant election year. References to ordinary events, like holidays and seasonal activities, are mixed in with reports that are more historically important. Like in an actual newspaper, in each panel the mundane appears alongside the catastrophic and there is at least one reference to the death of a public figure.
The series Album of Flowers | Interesting Times combines the traditions of the graphic with the painted to juxtapose the activities of society with nature. It represents an attempt to depict the artist’s daily experience of navigating physically, psychologically, and virtually between the two worlds. “With the news now a constant flow, I’ll check websites several times a day. While painting, I listen to podcasts and news broadcasts. With what I’ve heard or read still in mind, I may switch realms and head outdoors to where my garden of flowers seems persistent, uplifting, and offers respite from chaos.”
Prior to earning a BFA and becoming a full-time studio artist, Catherine Christiano spent her twenties earning engineering and finance degrees and working in those fields. Among the positions she held was one located in the World Trade Center, for which reading The Wall Street Journal was intrinsic to her morning workday routine. Because newspapers have been ubiquitous in her life, when she turned to artmaking, she instinctively incorporated them into her work.
In addition to the Album of Flowers | Interesting Times series of paintings, this exhibition includes a selection of early works and a few preliminary floral paintings. The early works show the evolution of Catherine Christiano’s work with newspaper imagery. Included are several intricate graphite drawings and a collection of oil still lifes painted on cropped newspaper pages.
The exhibition will be presented from September 10 to November 6, 2022 in the Glassenberg Gallery on the first floor as part of the Museum’s Near :: New contemporary series.
WHERE: Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street, New London CT
ABOUT CATHERINE CHRISTIANO
Catherine Christiano is a Connecticut based artist known for her detailed representational works. Often working in series, the pieces she creates may include multiple panels, mirrors, or painted still lifes juxtaposed with newspaper content reflecting contemporary concerns. Her work has been included in exhibitions at a number of regional museums and university galleries, including the New Britain Museum of American Art. She has also exhibited with George Billis Gallery in New York City and Los Angeles. This is her first solo museum exhibition.
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS INCLUDED IN THE NEWSPAPER IMAGERY
2016 was the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency and Hillary Clinton became the Democratic presidential nominee, making history as the first woman to be nominated by a major political party. Donald Trump, an underdog, and political outsider stunned the world when he was nominated and then elected president.
Internationally, US intelligence agreed that Russian operatives interfered in the US presidential election. Britain voted to leave the European Union. Colombia struck a peace deal. The Syrian civil war continued. North Korea conducted nuclear tests. Major terrorist attacks took place in Nice, Belgium, and Orlando. President Obama made a historic visit to Cuba.
The Zika virus emerged as a global health threat. 2016 went down as the hottest year on record and Houston was flooded by 2 feet of rain in a single day, signaling the threat of Climate Change. President Obama declared a state of emergency in response to the Flint water crisis. The rise of hate crimes in the US was linked to Trump’s rhetoric. The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal continued. Women’s US soccer team players voiced the bias in wages. The fight for transgender rights came to a head over bathroom bills that limited bathroom access. Five police officers were killed as payback for the traffic stop fatal shooting of Philando Castile, an African American man. It signaled rising intolerance to a racist criminal justice system.
The US Treasury announced it would replace former President Andrew Jackson with abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, an effort later sidelined by the Trump administration. Simone Biles impressed the world with her gold medal winning achievements at the Olympic games in Brazil. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Lin- Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton was a smash hit. NASA’s space probe Juno arrived at Jupiter. Scientists proved that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is correct.
The public figures who died included musicians David Bowie and Prince, actors Gene Wilder and Carrie Fisher, conductor Neville Mariner, playwright Edward Albee, author Harper Lee, fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, architect Zaha Hadid, artist Marisol, television news reporter Morley Safer, boxer Muhammad Ali, golfer Arnold Palmer, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, astronaut John Glenn, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, former Israeli president Shimon Peres, and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Elie Wiesel.
During January 2017, Barack Obama’s presidency ended, and Donald Trump was inaugurated. In Washington DC, anti-Trump protests broke out. The day after the inauguration, the Women’s March, a worldwide protest prompted by Trump’s statements considered offensive and anti-women, took place. President Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions to the US and barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
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