From Incineration to Celebration!

10/26/2016 02:16 pm ET

I recently attended a one time pop-up and art party for "PALIMPSEST." The word palimpsest refers to something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its former self. Walking into the exhibition, the keen scent of smoke surrounded me. The haunting charred visuals had a surprisingly positive effect on my senses. "PALIMPSEST" is an onsite exhibition created out of a tragedy, yet it exuded a celebratory vibe.

Flavio Bisciotti
photo by Felipe Martinez Carbonell
Flavio Bisciotti

In January of 2015, fire tore through artist Flavio Bisciotti's home studio. Thankfully no one was hurt, but all of Bisciotti's artwork and beloved possessions were destroyed. In addition to being an artist, Bisciotti is also an architect and designer. He owns FAB-gallery in Santa Monica. "It was a surreal experience," explained Bisciotti. "It took me to my edge. I was forced to look at my life both as a person and as an artist. After my initial shock, I decided to turn the whole experience quite literally into 'PALIMPSEST.'"

Bisciotti reached out to friends and fellow artists. It became a communal project which brought together thirty-two artists interested in instilling new life into partially incinerated objects. The final exhibition featured over fifty works of art with some artists creating multiple pieces.

Co-curator Delia Cabral came onto the project early on. "I have known Flavio for several years since he opened FAB-gallery. We have always shared a connection...when he asked me to partner up with him for 'PALIMPSEST' earlier this year, the project was intriguing and his timing was perfect. You can say it was meant to be!" 

Flavio Bisciotti at work
photo by Felipe Martinez Carbonell
Flavio Bisciotti at work

Videographer/photographer Felipe Martinez Carbonell shot a stirring video of the process. He also created a work of art for the exhibit. "I got involved in 'PALIMPSEST' at the moment that Flavio told me about his idea to create art from the ashes. I've been working with him at FAB-gallery as a filmmaker and photographer, so he invited me to be part of 'PALIMPSEST' and document the process from beginning to end of the project." The final version of his short documentary is set to be screened in January 2017.

Bisciotti created over nine works. One that truly moved me included a burned photo of his parents along with other treasured items from his life. He titled it Wundekammer, or Cabinets of Wonders, inspired by the objects of the same name during the Renaissance. "I found the idea very fascinating," continued Bisciotti..."keeping personal effects in a cabinet where people can view them, while recreating moments with their imagination. Wundekammer for me is a collection of objects that reflect moments in my life."

Relax is only fire by Flavio Bisciotti; 64" x 32" x 11' wooden box with remains from the fire;
photo by Felipe Martinez Carbonell
Relax is only fire by Flavio Bisciotti; 64" x 32" x 11' wooden box with remains from the fire;

I was also drawn to a mixed media painting by artist Lula Flores. It featured Adam and Eve - the painting exuded the innocence and re-birth of the project. It included remnants of Bisciotti's art plus items from his studio. A burned paint can was transformed into the ill-fated apple, while a pair of his damaged shoes were white washed and placed in the lower center portion of the painting, along with items such as paint brushes melted into a can which once was their home. The words MINE and YOURS were balanced on each side of the work.

I spoke with Flores, who explained her inspiration. "For me, Adam and Eve are the beginning of all of us and everything. The connection between them is a constant creation. The text MINE and YOURS relates to 'PALIMPSEST' in a way where we believe we have what we have, but in reality all we really have is spirit. So when we let go of what we own, it could be yours because what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine."

Adam and Eve by Lula Flores; Acrylic, burned elements charcoal pastels, mixed media on canvas, 6'x9'
photo by Felipe Martinez Carbonell
Adam and Eve by Lula Flores; Acrylic, burned elements charcoal pastels, mixed media on canvas, 6'x9'

She went on to say that she believed Adam and Eve represent pure love - giving yourself to the other in pure essence. Bisciotti gave his precious belongings to others to recycle and reclaim them. "We, as artists, helped give his burned possessions life again."

Anthony Schmitt, known for his shopping cart Christmas tree installation in Santa Monica, also added his talents to "PALIMPSEST." Schmitt incorporated miniature shopping carts along with other conceptual items skewed across the top of a charred piece of furniture (originally created by Bisciotti). Alexandra Dillon brought Bisciotti's damaged paint brushes to life with her whimsical faces. Barbara Kosoff's collage, created over Bisciotti's architectural drawings, rendered a feeling of new possibilities. Jennifer Verge put her eternal positive language on a damaged door, making us question 'If it Was All Taken Away, What Would Matter.' John Ransom re-invented Bisciotti's painting Let's Talk by suggesting that chaos and renewal go hand in hand. The illustrative art of Lauren Over featured a tarot card inspired theme...and a broken mirror bearing angels created by Barbara Mastej was a haunting reminder of the fragility of our lives.

Bisciotti added that he was amazed that so many people came to view "PALIMPSEST." He revealed that when he saw the final product, he was truly honored by the work that his friends created. Although he could not pick a favorite, he commented, "Amy Kaps and Eric Schwabel created an incredible piece over an old hand painted tarot cards screen I made many years ago. This is one of the best pieces of the show."

The Wheel of Fortune Meets the Fool by Amy Kaps and Eric Schwabel
Photo by Felipe Martinez Carbonell
The Wheel of Fortune Meets the Fool by Amy Kaps and Eric Schwabel

Bisciotti said this experience has changed him. "I was forced to look at what I had accomplished and what I still longed to create." Much of his own work was lost, such as his drawings, paintings, and functional art pieces. As a gallery owner, he often put other artists first. Bisciotti experienced his own rebirth as a reaction to this tragedy. He decided to focus more on his own art - citing the fire as a sign and the impetus for his new path. "I believe there are always signs everywhere. It is just a matter of whether or not we choose to see them."

Additional artists include: Brian Murphy, Campbell Laird, Christine Palma, Cristina Monmany, Doron Gazit, Gary Palmer, Gus Harper, Javier de Aubeyzon, Joshua Elias, Juan Feldman, Mark Farina, Mark Lipson, Michele Castagnetti, Nikolas Soren Goodich, Rana Wilson, Rohitash Rao, Sandy Bleifer, Tori White, and Michael Torquato deNicola.

On January 21, 2017, "PALIMPSEST" will be re-created at FAB-gallery in Santa Monica. Visit the website for additional information at http://fab-gallery.com/

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