On the Work of Claudia Sbrissa

By Enrico Gomez, 2015

The works of Claudia Sbrissa inhabit the worlds of several concerns at once; the personal, the temporal, the material, and the architectural to name only a few. Born into a family of artisans, Sbrissa brings to her art making an inherent appreciation of craft and of the contributive qualities of each physical component within her creative endeavor. In Sbrissa’s hands, each texture, color, and shape carries not only its own visual value but also the connotations of its own material historicity.

Like priceless heirlooms or revered saintly relics, the scraps of fabric, paper and wood that supplement Sbrissa’s palette add qualities of sentiment and soul to the sculptural, sensorial attributes of this artists endeavor. The tension between the ephemerality of these materials and the timelessness of intention and legacy is but one of the many qualities embedded within Sbrissa’s work.
In some works, the artist utilizes velvet flocking and fabrics inherited from her grandmother. In these abstract and intuitive works, brushstroke-like bands of cloth sing boldly, while wisps of stray thread trail and spray like the drips and spatter of Modernist Ab-Ex painters. In other works, Sbrissa will accrue her art-making materials from time-based perambulations through her immediate environs; transforming urban refuse and cast-offs into ready-made art supplies, a spinning of found thread into gold, if you will.

An interest in architecture and human-made environments is also apparent within Sbrissa’s oeuvre. Whether alluding to architectural structures in her fabric and paper constructions or highlighting / obscuring elements of building interiors in her site-specific sculptural installations, Sbrissa’s work implicates the human presence within man-made objects themselves, foregrounding the time-based labors of her own enterprise and of those who came before.

Contemporary Poet and Folk Musician Suzanne Vega in her song “Big Space” writes, “… Between the pen and the paperwork, there must be passion in the language. Between the muscle and the brainwork, there must be feeling in the pipeline …” This implication of “heart” within the handiwork of laborers is an apt corollary to the concerns of Sbrissa’s projects. Sbrissa’s interest in the place of handwork in traditional women’s work and domestic labor also fans out to include the labors of artisans in general. One can imagine the repeated movements of Sbrissa’s artist hands (drawing patterns, tracing abstractions, folding, wrapping) echoing the movements of her ancestors hands (stitching, sewing, sanding, carving, building), whilst simultaneously expanding the borders between craft and expression, holding nimbly the larger questions of contemporary art making and inquiry. Though art making is often a solitary practice, most come to this pursuit as an extension of personal interest and history, building atop and expanding upon the works of those artists who came before. Sbrissa’s work not only exposes this general truism but also employs it to pertinent effect.

The work of most artists is gestural and additive in nature, and this is generally true of Sbrissa. Only here, in Sbrissa’s efforts, the additive can also be reductive, the accretive, revealing. Sbrissa’s abstractions not only build out a visual record of her formal, artistic inquiry but also lay bare and foreground a crucial component of most human ventures; the indelible element of love.

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