What informs our notions of place? Familiar buildings, advertisements, and objects? Or is it something more personal — a remembrance of the people connected with that place, perhaps. Margherita Fabrizio’s current exhibit in Sibley Hall raises such questions, seeking a reevaluation within the viewer of “our lives, our culture, and our sense of place and memory.”
Fabrizio says that this exhibit grew out of an “impulse to preserve my childhood memories of place and time,” a statement rendered apparent by the photographs of the exhibit. Collages of advertisements, snapshots of clouds, and an interesting interplay of direction symbols all lead the viewer to feel as though Fabrizio is searching for an elusive goal, a reckoning between growth and stasis.
A preoccupation with the passage of time makes this artistic goal clear. Temporal elements abound, as in one piece comparing a photograph of the artist with one of her mother taken years earlier by her father Joseph Francis Fabrizio, whose work plays a major role in the exhibit. Here we see memories taking solid form in a search for family and history within oneself. The title of the piece in question is telling — “Heaven is Only Three Feet Away” — aligning this self—recognition with a divine state in ways reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.
That a religious connotation is given to a composition dealing with family is no surprise considering the nature of the exhibit. Fabrizio states that one goal of this project was to reconcile the “ever—present cityscape” of her childhood with the memories of the loss of her father, whose guidance led her to photography. This is achieved by Fabrizio’s meshing together of her own images with others photographed by her father — a tangible reconnection to the past she is appraising.
Juxtaposed against such a strong artistic and intellectual direction, the confusion and sense of being misplaced present in some of Fabrizio’s work is striking. In “Follow the Signs,” the viewer is presented with arrows pointing in varying directions, serving not only to guide the eye, but to guide the mind to a contemplation of modern influences. From where do we glean direction? And how does that direction relate to our sense of place and time?
For an exhibit that deals with such monumental issues, the photographs themselves are stylistically simple. While attention has obviously been paid to composition and technique, this exhibit is much more important for the intellectual considerations which brought it to fruition, and is made all the more impressive by them.
Margherita Fabrizio currently serves as the director of the Cornell in Rome and AAP-NYC programs. The exhibit, her first in twenty years, can be seen in Sibley Hall’s Hartell Gallery between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm until Friday, August 24th and was made possible in part by a grant from the Cornell Council of the Arts.