Claire Stigliani: Half-Sick of Shadows presents the artist’s most recent body of work in five interconnected series of drawings, paintings, miniature theater sets, and videos. Embracing the dreaminess of imagination and referencing a multitude of subjects in the material and literary world, Stigliani fearlessly merges her own fears and fantasies with fictional stories about women who transgress. Bubbling over with girly exuberance, her indulgently feminine art nevertheless expresses the rawness of desire and her complicated relationship to love, sexuality, selfhood, and artistic creation.
Stigliani begins each narrative series with a single drawing that she subsequently uses as inspiration for constructing a table-top puppet set populated by marionettes of her story’s principle characters. This miniature theater becomes the backdrop for a video, the doll-like puppets acting out scripted scenes with clumsy and stilted movements. The video is then reimagined as an acrylic and mixed-media painting whose imagery is derived from still frames of the footage. Visually mimicking the cutting and reconfiguring of video editing, Stigliani’s paintings are dense compositions of skewed and condensed spaces: sometimes they exist as a single frame, sometimes they combine layers, and sometimes one painting contains multiple scenes. The compositions contain mirrors and screens that record, reflect, and project each story back onto itself in an endless feedback loop of reflexivity.
Unfolding within the private spaces of Stigliani’s own apartment and art studio, two of the narratives included in the exhibition are semi-autobiographical. The other three vignettes visualize the artist’s poetic reinterpretation of recognizable stories: Eve’s temptation and ultimate act of defiance in the Garden of Eden; Angela Carter’s The Snow Child, a subversive retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White; and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Victorian ballad about the tragic Lady of Shalott. Collectively, the female characters depicted in Stigliani’s series function as an extended self-portrait, as shadows or reflections of the artist herself. They allow Stigliani to explore, try on, and represent the many sides of contemporary feminine identity. A complex web tying together autobiography, pop culture, and a broad array of art historical references—including eighteenth-century Rococo painting, Austrian portraits of royalty, fairytale illustrations, and Pop art—these deeply layered works embody Stigliani’s genuine quest for self-understanding.
writing by Leah Kolb