The Gumbo Limbo tree sheds its flaky bark in order to prevent colonization by parasitic insects. The Cecropia tree is the "pioneer species", venturing into eroded or burned lands to provide shade, restore the soil and initiate regrowth. Orangutan families rarely sleep in the same nest twice, and adult males lead solitary lives once leaving their mothers as adolescents. Similarly, humans take up certain roles dependent on social and environmental movements in each generation. Barabbas's Garden examines how growth occurs while a person is affected by environments, decisions, circumstances, and the intersection between self and others. The obsessive medium of free-stitch embroidery/tapestry here merges with the unstable and ambiguous quality of wood lithography and the intimate sound of the human voice in an interactive exhibition. This combination of mediums allows viewers to enter into the confusion, polarity, and intensity of desire present in the act of repeatedly "being" the identity that we have of ourselves, and of experiencing others' identities.
The audio projected from the tapestry includes fragments of the artist's voicemail recordings saved over the past decade as well as portions of individual interviews that the artist conducted with participants, most of whom the artist met for the first time during their interview. A soundscape crafted from edited pieces of words serves as a rumbling interlude during the audio piece, where the human voice resembles the sounds of a rainforest in the nighttime.
This exhibition presented the first "phase" of the tapestry. As it continues to change and grow, this current phase will have only been seen by those who have visited this exhibition.
Leitmotif, Opus 21
In musical terms, a Leitmotif is a theme created for a specific character or idea, and often with repetition, serves to identify them within the composition. “Opus” is a term used in the numbering of musical works, normally according to chronological order. The show rests on one other crucial piece of inspiration, words spoken by Mark Rothko during his MoMA retrospective exhibition in 1961. In response to one man’s questioning how long it took Rothko to make one of his paintings, he replied, “I’m 57 years old and it took me all my life to do it.”1 This statement of Rothko’s provides for a clear understanding of the show’s title, Leitmotif, Opus 21. It represents the struggle of understanding the artist’s place in their own work, and how necessary the knowledge of artist is for those who experience the work. As the artist’s hands are always present, they are an irremovable leitmotif. And like Rothko, the work produced by the artist during this year (the artist’s twenty-first year) is not in truth a product of this year but of all twenty-one years of the artist’s life.
One of the initial questions the show seeks to address is how an artist depicts people of certain relation to him/her. How does one paint someone who really knows them, or someone who is no longer living, or in front of them, or is a stranger, or their father, or another artist? Each of these situations required a variation in medium, creating a multimedia, multi-personality leitmotif. For example, two pairs of portraits seen from the back of the sitters’ heads give only a slight impression of the side of the faces, with the majority of information provided through the ear. This is drawn from the Morellian method of art authentication, devised by Giovanni Morelli in the nineteenth century, utilizing the idea that elements such as hands and ears were commonly rendered as an afterthought by most artists in regard to technique, as opposed to having been drawn directly from observation of the sitter. In this way, these elements would serve to identify the true hand of the painter, even when the signature is forged. In these portraits, however, it is the ear only that serves in identifying the sitter, without the artist’s imposition.