Saturday, August 29, 2009

zoophilious terraquarium – the anarchic taxonomy of chris garofalo

Zoophilious terraquarium: the anarchic taxonomy of chris garofalo opens at the Muskegon Museum of Art on June 4. The public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibition that night, starting at 5:30 p.m. Chicago-based ceramic artist Chris Garofalo will present an iMovie about her work at 7:00 p.m. The 45-minute film provides insight into the artist’s creative motivations and is composed of still and moving images, combined with music and text. The film will be shown in the MMA’s auditorium. Reception and film admission are free. Zoophilious terraquarium will be on display through September 13.

Garofalo’s finely detailed, glazed porcelain sculptures are comprised of elements of land and sea, evoking primeval environments that have evolved outside the human sphere of influence. Grouped together, these specimens manifest a curious universe of the artist’s making. More than 70 objects, ranging in size from a few inches to more than a foot in diameter, are mounted on a “landscape” specially designed by the artist and her architect-husband, Doug. The primordial scene is suspended with wavelike undulation from the ceiling by cables that allow it to float from near eye level to a few feet off the floor.

Garofalo titles each of her objects and installations with language as unexpected as her ceramic life forms. “Zoophilious” is a play on the word “zoophilous,” or pollinated by animals. We usually think of pollination occurring among plants and insects, or perhaps birds, in the interest of producing more plants. Animal pollination conjures up offspring that are both plant and animal. A terrarium or an aquarium is a kind of controlled, contained ecosystem of either earth or water. “Zoophilious terraquarium” implies an ecosystem containing creatures both terrestrial and aquatic, equal parts plant and animal. “Taxonomy” is a means of classifying organisms in an ordered system, while “anarchic” describes the opposite, something without a cohesive standard. This dichotomy describes opposite qualities demonstrated in Garofalo’s works—aggressive/delicate, wild/tamed, and alien/familiar.
Chris Garofalo was a graphic designer before she discovered the organic medium of clay. She has lived in Chicago since 1980 and began exhibiting in 1991. In 2007, she received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painter and Sculptor Grant Award, and is currently represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.


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