“You can see art as a song, or you can see it as the whole album.”
On Sunday, October 28, I journeyed to the western part of the state to view an exhibition by artists Daniel Rossi and Dymphna de Wild, entitled CONCATENATION. The exhibit was located on Cobble Hill Farm in Staunton VA, a two-hour drive up I-64 W. Upon arriving at the historic barn located on top of a picturesque hill, I was warmly greeted by a man with a thick Italian accent – his eyes were beaming, and he was obviously really excited about the show opening, which was set to happen in approximately one hour.
“You can see art as a song, or you can see it as the whole album.”
On Sunday, October 28, I journeyed to the western part of the state to view an exhibition by artists Daniel Rossi and Dymphna de Wild, entitled CONCATENATION. The exhibit was located on Cobble Hill Farm in Staunton VA, a two-hour drive up I-64 W. Upon arriving at the historic barn located on top of a picturesque hill, I was warmly greeted by a man with a thick Italian accent – his eyes were beaming, and he was obviously really excited about the show opening, which was set to happen in approximately one hour. We introduced ourselves and from there on out he was incredibly kind, down to earth, and informative about his work and the themes surrounding CONCANTENATION.
Rossi came to the states from Perugia, Italy in 2004 when he was invited by the International Development bank in DC to do a show. After the show in 2004, Rossi expected to be going back home to Italy relatively soon (he even had his plane ticket!), but he was invited to stay, and ended up remaining in the US even longer than he had anticipated. Eventually he met a girl that became his wife and decided to extend his visa so he could legally stay in the States.
We made our way inside, and even though he claimed that he wouldn’t know what to say unless I asked him specific questions, once he got started explaining his work, he had plenty that he wanted to express. Upon entering the gallery that the barn had been transformed into, I was completely blown away by the hand-made sculptures, paintings, and drawings covering the walls and floor. The first thing I noticed was the approximately eight-foot-tall, four-foot-wide bamboo wind chime hand-carved by Rossi. After examining the wind chime, I noticed deer skulls and antlers, sculptures made of twigs and branches, hand-carved faces, a mannequin’s head in a basket that hung from a rope coming from the ceiling, water color paintings, and drawings. Needless to say, the work was varied.
Rossi’s philosophy is twofold: first, art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are many parts, and everything feeds off of everything else. Second, spontaneity can be really useful, “When you start to plan, it’s too much and you struggle. It’s better to follow the flow.”
Rossi studied at the International School of Illustration in Rome, Italy; he originally wanted to draw comics. “Once you have the ability to draw, especially comics, you have to know how to draw everything, from a chair to any props. And eventually you become confident doing drawings without having a model or a picture. You also have the ability to create something that comes from your imagination. I like more paintings than drawings; it makes you more involved mentally. But at the same time, since I was a kid, I was playing in my grandfather’s wood facility. That’s where I learned to work with wood, learned to make furniture, crafting. I am involved in both [the] sides of crafting and painting.”
Rossi then began to tell me about his newest medium, bamboo. I suddenly began to realize that bamboo was everywhere, not just in the huge wind chime hanging in the middle of the room. “Recently, I started to work on this element, which is combined with balance, crafting, and composition using bamboo. I first started using bamboo in Italy in 2001, but I couldn’t find bamboo this size. This one comes from California.” He’s not just experimenting with bamboo, however: as soon as he arrived at the barn, he scouted around the area looking for interesting objects. “The first thing I did, as soon as I arrived, was to go look around. We found the skulls in the other barn, and I saw them hanging with a few things. So I collected these few things and they ended up in this show.“
I was extremely interested in how an Italian artist came to be so passionate about a barn in the middle of nowhere. Apparently, Rossi’s wife’s best friend is good friends with the son of the owner of the barn (phew, what a mouthful). Daniel and his wife came to visit the area in the spring of 2012, right after coming back from their yearlong residency in Brazil. “In July it’s my birthday, my 40th. And I said to my wife, ‘I want to spend one night with hammocks in there.’ In Brazil we always hang out outside. In July we came here and enjoyed my birthday.” After spending some time in the area, Rossi decided he had to do something with the space, but had no plan of who he wanted to work with, or what exactly he wanted to do. He met Dymphna de Wild at the opening of the Staunton art school. After meeting de Wild, everything came together really quickly.
Used tea bags, yarn, worn furniture, video with an audio loop, framed prints, sketches, sculptures made of found objects… the list of materials used by Dymphna de Wild goes on and on. I was absolutely blown away by her craft and ability to bring miscellaneous, inanimate objects to life in such a cohesive way. Once you realize the plethora of material she uses, it’s hard to understand how she decides what pieces go where, and how to assemble her objects in a way that actually communicates to the viewer. Honestly, I admire the variety of materials and the seemingly bizarre sculptures she creates from such random objects. As my mother used to say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Which is not to say any of these objects are trash–de Wild gives them a new life that completely surpasses their original use.
De Wild is from the Netherlands. She moved to Washington DC in 1999 and to Philadelphia in 2004. She got her BFA at Corcoran College of Art + Design in 2003, and her MFA from James Madison in 2012, where she majored in intermedia. When she and Daniel met they knew nothing about each other, but his outgoing personality helped them cultivate an art partnership. Upon entering the barn, it’s pretty easy to distinguish that each side belongs to a different artist, but the two kinds of work are actually similar in the sense of their random, spontaneous energy. Dymphna, more commonly called Dymph, creates sculptures out of found materials. Yarn, pantyhose, teabags, discarded furniture, tennis rackets – it all has the same sort of strange feeling that comes from the side of the room where Daniel Rossi’s work is. The sharing of space and the similarity of vision works incredibly well, especially when you consider the fact that, before deciding to work together, these two artists had never met.
De Wild has traveled all over – she just got back from a show in Alaska and has another show coming up next month in Brooklyn. She likes living here, and sees herself continuing to work in the states, but she’s interested in potentially working overseas. “I’m interested in the outpost idea of expedition, and I’ve been working with that for a year or year-and-a-half. So that’s how I see [the art]–they’re all outposts. I collect a lot of items on the roads, or just things that I find. All of that objected material that’s thrown away, I collect and put together for new energy and new life. I give it a new space. This is my own little world–this is how I see it. We need to have fun living. We need to be children again. We lose that so quickly – it’s amazing.”
De Wild’s Artist Statement:
Art from the Outpost, Field Notes, New Territory, and the Invisible Hamster
Growing up, my sister and I would spend our summers at one of the lakes in Friesland, a northern coastal province in the Netherlands. We would transform our small row boat into a sail boat by putting up a large vertical pole and fastening it with wires and ropes to hooks on the rim. We used our windbreaker jackets as sails and off we went. Usually the wind would pick up once we entered open water, blowing the boat across the lake at high speed. In no time, the boat would hit the shallow waters off the shore of one of the nearby small islands and we would disappear into the tall reeds, giggling all the way. Waiting for the wind to change directions or to slow down enough to make return possible, my sister and I would walk to our outpost, a tent-like structure with some boards added on the outside for extra support. We would play cards, read books, or saunter around the island picking up odds and ends.
This current body of work reveals my choice to be inventive with mostly found materials that I discover on walks. Calling myself an artist-archeologist, I make field notes as I collect my art-bound specimens, and I create a descriptive inventory for each of my works. Even as I elevate the status of cast-aside objects into components of art works, thereby attracting notions of respect and preservation, my works are also as ephemeral as they are playful. I strive to imbue my works with more content than simply a commentary on today’s throw-away society.
To me, an outpost represents a home-like safe haven, where I can go and do as I like, outside the pressures of today’s fast-paced, plugged-in, Facebook-ed world. With my childhood’s treasured objects nearly 7,000 kilometers away, in my parents’ home on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I am left with recalled sensations and memories of earlier found treasures. Perhaps it is due to this lack of tangible evidence from my earliest years that I am stimulated to become inventive and experimental in creating new imaginary outposts for myself.