From Argentina to Sonoma
Marcela Panasiti felt lonely and out of place after moving to the United States from her native Argentina in 1993, until she found her home in Sedona, Arizona. There she discovered familiar territory: Cowboys replaced gauchos, desert supplanted pampas, and cattle remained abundant. What became radically different was Panasiti’s artwork. In Argentina, she served as the art coordinator for the Museum of Modern Art and Cultura de Mendoza, taught art at the Spanish College, and participated in exhibitions, but most of the art she created was commissioned, resulting in works that she describes as “compromised” and “lifeless.” But when Panasiti gazed upon Arizona’s impressive landscape for the first time, she found herself newly inspired: “I saw the formations and the earth and immediately I thought of developing this technique.”
From adobe, clay, and soil, Panasiti creates two- and three-dimensional structures that invite the viewer to appreciate the beauty of the earth in its most simplistic form. Panasiti is enthralled by the hidden grandeur of the American West, in “the deep cuts of the earth, the things that we don’t see much, the composition of the different layers. That is my inspiration, what I love most. It’s what I try to bring to the surface.” Reading like geological strata, her resulting low reliefs, murals, and sculptures range from smooth, glazed surfaces to parched, cracked exteriors, incorporating embedded stone, feathers, and bone.
Behind the beautiful artwork is a laborious process. “I have to go and dig earth and sift it and bring it to my house,” Panasiti explains in her melodic accent. “I have to be searching in different places because the earth is just like people, it’s different in every square inch.” The Sedona soil provides rich reds, dark browns, and soft whites, but Panasiti also uses patinas created from minerals to enhance her color palette with vibrant turquoise, copper, and gold. In addition to color, the earth provides natural textural variations, from smooth clay to gritty soil to chunky tiles. Panasiti seems to extract these textures and colors from the earth only to arrange them on a canvas so, in a place of prominence, we can recognize the natural beauty we so often ignore.
GALLERIES: Contemporary Fine Art of La Jolla, La Jolla, California, 858.551.2010, www.contemporaryfineartsgallery.com. Mirada Fine Art Gallery, Indian Hills, Colorado, 303.697.9006, www.miradafineart.com.
EXHIBIT: Organic Art & The World of Marcela Panasiti, artist reception July 24, exhibit runs through August 15, Mirada Fine Art Gallery.