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steven carrelli





Steven Carrelli - Letters from the Storm

Steven Carrelli is interested in painting's ability to function simultaneously as both crafted surface and illusionistic representation. Using the traditions and techniques of trompe-l'oeil painting as a means of formal and perceptual play, Carrelli manipulates the visual language of illusion in order to explore the painting's dual identity as image and object.

In subject matter, these paintings examine the cultural and artistic influences that shape his interests and identity, and refer specifically to the conflict and complexity of participating in two different cultures while belonging fully to neither. Although not intending these works to be literal or autobiographical, they do reflect his experience as an Italian-American with strong personal ties to both countries. They are an expression of the desire to be in two places at once, of the experience of living in one place that feels like home while thinking of another.

The objects represented are often cheap office supplies, Post-It notes, envelopes I've received in the mail and other common materials. Among these elements of mass-produced, throw-away culture are also items of personal and cultural significance: images of Gothic and Renaissance art, drawings reproduced from his sketchbook, jewelry and other artifacts of Italian-American identity. The envelopes, in addition to being well-suited for the formal exigencies of trompe-l'oeil, are also a means of reaching across a distance. Letters often serve as a bridge, providing a way of being in two places at once. The play of space in these paintings and the sometimes impossible juxtapositions that occur, as when a window carved into a manila envelope opens out onto a landscape, are similarly means of holding these different experiences in proximity to one another - of merging them into a hybrid unity.

Like all of the images in these works, the satellite photos of hurricanes that recur throughout the series carry several associations. They refer to the literal storms - Katrina and Rita - that tore up much of the Gulf coast in 2005 and dominated the thoughts of people around the world. They also refer figuratively to those interior storms that buffeted so many Americans who, like Carrelli, were living abroad at that time, watching from a distance as our native country ripped itself open and showed its ugliest self. More recently, while completing work on this series of paintings, he came to realize how aptly those satellite images serve as metaphors for the distance from which he witnessed those events. He was struck by how those violent and devastating storms can look so beautiful when photographed from space.