Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mia Tavonatti: Fullerton College Artist-In-Residence

One of the cool things about working at a college is that I am constantly surrounded by amazing cultural happenings: theater, dance, poetry, and art.  Since the 1970s, Fullerton College has had an artist-in-residence program in which they invite a professional artist to come give workshops to students, and show their work in an exhibit.  The current artist-in-residence is Mia Tavonatti.  This morning, after class, I was walking past the art building and I saw the gallery was open, so I thought I'd check out Mia's work.

My first reaction was, "This work is very good, but it's not really my style."  It looked too refined, too technically perfect for someone like me, whose tastes are a little more lowbrow.  I'm more of a street/punk/comic art sort of a guy.  And Mia's art is definitely not those things.  It is "fine" art.  

The exhibit features large oil paintings of women covered with various see-through sheets.  I took painting classes at Fullerton College and know how damn hard it is to paint realistic-looking fabric, let alone see-through fabric, so I was impressed with Tavonatti's technical skill.  She knows figures and she knows fabric.

But, as I said, the art did not immediately speak to me.  I couldn't figure out if the work was just a series of difficult technical exercises, or if it was trying to say something about life.  I like art that says something about life.

But then, after a stroll through the gallery, I came upon Mia's artist statement, which is this:

Svelata [sve-la-ta]
Verb: Italian
Remove a veil or covering. Reveal.

No matter what has transpired during my life, one thing has remained constant, my conversation with the Divine.  This dialogue has written itself into my work since I picked up my first crayon.  Over the years, my personal spirituality has been developed, explored and revealed through my content and my craft.  It is here that I reach for the Ideal...where I seek perfection and marry above with below, male with female, light with where I adventure beyond the veil the discover the beauty that lies beyond the illusion.  Material and spirit dance and romance in my work, fall in love, divide and depart, build up and tear down and forge the alchemical fires that enable and create a fertile ground where transformation occurs and a greater, higher love is discovered.  The soul, once lost but now found, is liberated after lying dormant for years beneath the surface of emotional waters too deep to tread.  Through the reunion of body and spirit, the veil is transformed from cocoon, shield and armor to wings, the vehicle for flight, empowered by the flow of running waters that pull me back to my Self...

Mia Tavonatti

After reading that, I felt compelled to take another stroll through the gallery.  I was reminded of the fact that part of art appreciation is understanding context.  In class this morning, we were talking about a specific WPA mural in Fullerton that was painted during the Great Depression, and how understanding what was happening locally during the Depression deepens our understanding of the mural.  I suppose the same happened for me with Mia's paintings.  Understanding the philosophy beneath the surface of her paintings helped me see them as more than just masterful technical exercises.  They are an expression of her spirituality, and they are very beautiful when viewed in this light.

1 comment:

  1. After studying Italian, I think it's interesting that Mia uses the feminine past participle of the verb "svelare" to describe her work. I think that, in doing so, she's saying that not only her work is being revealed, but that through it, so is she. Quite interesting!