Light Treatment

Rome, Spazio Etoile Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina 41
5-13 October 2007
Opening Reception Friday, October 5, 2007, 6.00pm
Meeting with the artist, Friday, 12 October at 8 pm.

Curator:Tiziana Gazzini Organization:Cultural Association
La coda dell’occhio
The only artist invited to take part in the Festival with the Trattamento Light/Light Treatment exhibition, Gaialight will present her most recent cycle of work in which she has applied her usual artistic techniques (collage, photographs, installations) to disability aids. The cycle, realized in New York in 2007, has a vaguely medical-sounding title: Treatment, since the artist has subjected crutches, walking frames, hearing aids and other items used to facilitate the everyday lives of the disabled, to her unique form of therapy, her treatment, transforming them into postpop objects. The result is a surprising redesign effect which goes beyond the art/design dialectic, exploring what is meant by disability and what is meant by aid. In this exhibition, Gaialight fights with light violence against the violence of disability and the violence – which at times is no less ferocious – of aids. And the artist’s understanding of disability is not limited to the physical sort. Are sexual impotence and depression serious disabilities within a society where everyone is required to be attractive and happy? Viagra, Prozac et al are the official “aids” used to combat these disabilities in the western world. And so Gaialight gives a Viagra and Prozac-style treatment to crutches, making them into surreal, poetic works of art, eloquent and undeniably rebellious. A series of themed art works dealing with modern-day disabilities – physical, mental, political – and their remedies, will be on display at the Spazio Etoile. In some of these, Gaialight identifies disability, holding it up as an example and revealing it for what it is, in others she sets forth her treatment, where possible describing an antidote and paying homage to her great passions: the cinema and cartoons, pop culture and mass icons, the heroes and anti-heroes of history and politics, art and fashion. As in previous exhibitions dedicated to lighters (Light 2004), tin cans (Can 2005) and televisions (Light TV 2006), Gaialight once again offers a photographic exploration of the new art worlds of her own creation. Along with the original objects, the exhibition in Rome will include photos taken by the artist, laying bare the very anatomy of her work, deconstructing/reconstructing through images both angry and decorative. Pleasing and frightening.
Gaialight was interviewed on her Light Treatment cycle by Kathryn B. Heisinger, Curator of European Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Kathryn B. Hiesinger has supervised, amongst others, the Designing Modern: 1920 to the Present exhibition, currently being held in Philadelphia (15 September 2007 – Spring 2008).

Light Treatment
an interview to Gaialight
by Kathryn B. Hiesinger

“(…) why shouldn’t Chanel sell
pink branded crutches to stylish clients
who need them, and why in general,
as the artist asks, does medical equipment
merit so little aesthetic consideration?”

Kathryn B. Hiesinger

I recently interviewed Gaialight about her new work, “Light Treatment ” , which will be exhibited at Rome’s fifth international design fair, “Roma Design Piu’,” in October 2007. Building on her neo-Pop conceptual photo-collages of Coca-Cola cans, first shown in Rome at the Galleria Santa Cecilia in 2005, Gaia continues to use the visual language of pop art – its cartoon graphics, flatness, references to commercial art, and contradictions of scale and context – for her socio-political messages. In “Light Treatment,” Gaia applies comic and popular images and microtexts to tools for the disabled, among them, crutches, canes, hearing aids and walkers. These objects can be literally read, but also remain functional, if highly decorated tools. Accenting the densely decorated surfaces of these tools are heart-shaped stickers, a nod to the continuing pre-teen fondness for stickers, but also an ironic comment on the images they embrace.

Each decoration is thematically composed, most in the exhibition speaking directly to issues of physical or mental disability. Superman and Wonder Woman suggest the strength of the disabled as well as the freedom and power those with disabilities may have lost. Mona Lisa, a universal symbol of beauty, is also subversively photomontaged with other faces, including a scary Jack Nicholson from the film “The Shining,” and Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction.” Glamorous logos create glamorous-looking tools: hot-pink Chanel and Ferrari among others, “are powerful images,” according to the artist, “because of the contrast and contradiction of dramatically ugly aids to fancy, upscale brands.” Yet still, on a purely functional level, why shouldn’t Chanel sell pink branded crutches to stylish clients who need them, and why in general, as the artist asks, does medical equipment merit so little aesthetic consideration? Another piece is decorated with sumptuous blue Pfizer/Viagra pills and sticker hearts, another with Prozac capsules and the Statue of Liberty, their messages of freedom and recovered ability ringing loud and clear. One crutch is decorated with “Cherry,” a character from Quentin Tarantino’s film, “Grindhouse,” whose bionic leg serves as a weapon. There is also Wheelchair Barbie (actually “Share a Smile Becky,” a Barbie doll in a wheelchair introduced by Mattel in 1997) and a walker dedicated to film characters with disabilities, from James Stewart in “Rear Window,” to Heidi’s friend Clara and Almodovar’s “Lydia” in “Habla con ella.”

A number of the works are more purely political statements, “bringing up things which are particularly urgent at this time in our history,” said the artist, “and in a metaphorical way, need to be ‘cured’ (they all seem to need an ‘aid’).” An old Palestinian map decorates one crutch, the map completed with flags and symbols as well as repeated “No War” signs; below are Muppets Statler and Waldorf, “arguing as always,” Gaia noted, “repeating the same things without reaching a solution.” Another crutch is prisoner-themed, from Paris Hilton to Guantanamo Bay.

Born and educated in Rome, Gaia is now working in New York. Wherever she may be, Gaialight is certainly a young artist to watch.