Artist Statement – “Spolia”
Across the three decades I have made photographs in Italy, I have noticed what Italians call “spolia,” an ancient practice of taking an old stone previously used as a column or a capital or a grave marker and repurposing it in the building of something new. One reason people reused old materials was because they were available. But the practice was never just about recycling. It was also always about tapping into the power of what the stone had once been in the structure or monument where it had first appeared, the authority of the people who had shaped its initial use.
I had this history in mind when I began making these collages in 2019. I found my stone, my equivalent of a piece of a column, in some antique writing practice books I found in a Japanese flea market. Most of the pages already displayed the configuration of a grid. Working with those empty squares as a platform eliminated the need to invent a new form. The grid allowed for an overall activation of the surface while maintaining a recognized structure.
I soon evolved a serial approach, establishing certain parameters to govern how I would compose each image. The more I worked within the established framework, the more options I discovered in my source materials. I had been collecting commercially printed paper, such as old street posters from Italy and damaged illustrated books, and I saw the opportunity to revive the bits and pieces by making something new. Cut into strips and then into half-inch squares, those old papers became my stones.
As I acknowledged the visual nature of the material and its possibilities for dynamic variation, I adopted practices of rotation, mirroring, and reversal. In this way, I introduced chance into the layouts and revealed new possibilities for endless transformation and alternative forms.
The resulting body of work embodies what Italo Calvino defined as “lightness,” a capability in the face of “the weight and opacity of the world.”