#BaroqueTechStyle: Portraits by Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern
May 9–June 29, 2014
Curated by Mary Birmingham
Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern draws inspiration and elements from art history as well as popular culture, blending the traditional with the contemporary. For several years the artist has focused on a body of work she has humorously titled Vanitas Contemporarius. These seemingly conventional still lifes and portraits incorporate unexpected or even anachronistic objects. The large-scale portraits in this exhibition present models dressed in contemporary clothing and wearing elaborate formal wigs and hairpieces popular with fashionable 18th-century characters. Juxtaposed against patterned backgrounds inspired by Baroque textiles, the sitters use a variety of personal electronics—mobile phones, tablet computers, iPods, and GPS devices. These figures exist in a world that intermingles old and new, traditional, and trendy. Through their embrace of technology, they are “connected,” yet they appear isolated in their highly stylized and artificial environments.
Ficarelli-Halpern’s work draws an interesting parallel between the worlds of fashion and technology; both are largely dependent on change and keeping ahead of the latest trends. In fashion and technology the “next big thing” is inevitably eclipsed by the next “next big thing.” The certainty of obsolescence in material and popular culture might be considered a twenty-first-century equivalent of traditional vanitas—an updated reminder of the vanity and fleeting nature of earthly goods and pleasures.