Thanks to Erin McNutt and Pamela Reed for the detailed story on my artwork in Canvas Magazine.
Excerpts from the article:
Michel Varisco lives in a charming little cottage in Faubourg St. John along with her protective chihuahua, Rocket. Her home, as well as the vibrant garden surrounding it, succinctly reflects her broad interest in horticulture and the environment. One gets the sense that each object within her picket fence is an assemblage, not unlike the assembled pieces of art for which she is famous.
Michel’s cottage is filled with examples of her assemblage pieces and her photography. One assemblage piece consists of two resin hammers, which she cast from a broken hammer inherited from her deceased father. “I took bricks that were made by slaves. You can find these bricks pretty easily in a brick yard – old New Orleans bricks. I’ve read that the mud came from Lake Ponchartrain and the sand and mortar came from the Mississippi River. Those are two things that are the nearest and dearest to my heart, the waters around us. I am also concerned with the land around that water. A lot of the work from the Shifting series is my way of asking ‘why are we losing land at such a rapid rate?’ How do I describe that as an artist? I want to confront those demons of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.
“This brick is tied back to the earth and it also represents an illicit energy source because of the slaves who were forced to make them. Not unlike the illicit energy source of fossil fuels which are ruining our environment. Then I started playing with the bricks and broke them down to dust with my dad’s hammer. I learned that the slaves and their descendants would use the dust by sprinkling it in their doorways to ward off evil spirits. The game board that is holding the bricks is a Mancala game board. It’s an ancient African game that archeologist have found in excavations near slave homes in Louisiana.
Why does Michel devote so much attention to water, over the many other environmental and social issues we face as community?
“I like to think of water as a literal and metaphorical reflecting pond of our behavior and concerns as a species. It’s a kind of moral barometer regarding pollutants and hydrological changes that affect the ecosystem dramatically.
After photographing the BP oil spill and living through a flooded New Orleans, I’ve seen so many aspects of water that concern me deeply, environmentally and socially.”