"He used a Sharpie," my friend Verray announced as we were touring Hector Rene Del Campo's "Ventanas" exhibit at Gallery 924 Friday evening.
"A Sharpie?" I said, thinking she had surely mistaken fine brush strokes for the name-brand permanent marker.
"Yeah, it says right here that he used a Sharpie," she said, pointing to the exhibit label of one of Del Campo's paintings
Sure enough, listed among the media used to produce the piece was "Sharpie." It was black.
As we continued on our tour, we found ourselves saying things like "Look, Batman," and "Oh, it's fabric." We were drawn to the bright paintings with the spray-painted squares. The dark colors with eyeballs and rooster heads made us uneasy. We laughed when we saw the painting that looked like popcorn.
Del Campo's work was full of texture and color, though it often left me dizzy with its overlapping patterns and layers of dripping spray paint. I was intrigued by mirror imaged stencils that were repeated in several of the paintings, including the silhouette of Batman. We weren't making it up.
Novice gallery tourists that we were, we didn't read Del Campo's artist statement until we were leaving the gallery, so we didn't know as we were looking at his paintings that these stencils and symbols, many from his familial homeland of Cuba, were a study in how "one's upbringing is directly influenced by ethnic heritage."
We also didn't realize that these paintings were visual representations of memories and the layering that happens as we add experience to experience.
New work in "Ventanas" (windows) seeks to explore how we are able to accurately record and express our experiences through memories by juxtaposing semi-transparent stenciling of shapes with sprayed text and solid lines or semi-opaque color fields. This transition from initial transparency and clarity towards layering echoes the human retention of memories - the thoughts, fragmented images and words that combine to construct personal experience. (from Hector Rene Del Campo's artist statemetn on "Ventanas")
While Del Campo's exhibit reminded me of Miami street art captured so boldly on canvas and bits of fabric, it also gave me a glimpse into my own culture, my own past, and the layers upon layers of life that are spray painted just as tenuously on the fibers of my memory.
Fellow High Calling editor Claire Burge wrote about sifting through these layers of memory in her recent post, "What Do We Pass On to our Children?" It began with a note from her mother, recalling the milkshakes they had shared together seven years ago. They are still the best, her mother writes to her.
Claire remembers it differently.
I get technical on her, of course not uttering any of this out loud, but mulling it over in the creases of my own mind. They are not really that good. I recall them being watery and somewhat lumpy, ice cream lumpy which is delicious, but nonetheless lumpy. And then without restraint the memories pour in sequentially. I taste the sunscreen on my lips, mingling with sweat. I hear my feet shuffling on sand that hides floorboards. I see the sea weathered sign hanging on for its life above the ramshackle walls that are: Pearly's.
Days later, the memories come again, only this time of a trip to Italy, hidden within a view of poppies as she drives near her home.
A week ago when I came around a corner in my car, my eyes met a burst of red poppies growing wildly in a field. In an instant I was back in Italy, in a small hillside village in June of 2010. It so disorientated me that I forgot for split seconds where I was going.
And she wonders . . .
::How is it that our grey matters remembers this way?
There wasn't time to go back through the gallery to look at each of Del Campo's pieces again, this time with an eye toward transparency, memory and ethnicity. But as we left the gallery and passed the last few paintings in the foyer, I saw more than random color and shape. The popcorn on red background was not just an artist's craving. Batman repeated again and again and outlines drawn in black Sharpie pen were not just the doodles of a dabbler.
I had experienced the art for what it was and what it was meant to be. And I left having recognized myself in it.
Join me for regular jaunts around The High Calling network, randomly visiting fellow bloggers, soaking up their words and ideas, and then coming back here to write about them from my perspective.
Each Thursday, consider going "There and Back Again" yourself. It's simple.
My friend Ann Kroeker, also a High Calling editor, has been sorting through her own layered memories recently. Stop by and visit her, too!
Image is Hector Rene Del Campo's Formas en el aire, 2010, spray and latex paints with Sharpie on canvas, used in Ventanas exhibit publicity materials