Lisa Venditelli at David Zapf
resembling religious appartitions are a major
element of Lisa Venditelli's sculptural
constructions and assemblages. The Virgin Mary
materializes in stains (made from tea) on an
ironing board that stands upright, with two neat
piles of clean laundry in front. The Virgin's
likeness also appears in a colander that is part of
a wall-mounted piece,Aura della Madonna,
with a red velveteen backdrop and various long,
thin strands of pasta as ornamentation, Flatter
noodles are also the stuff of Venditelli's
The exhibition "Mary Magdalene and Friends"
included a generous array of examples stretching
back to 1997 that display Venditelli’s consistent
preoccupation with Italian-American culture and the
place of women within it. Her approach is formally
inventive and, in most cases, visually dramatic. It
is both feminist and funny.
At first glance, the ironing board doesn't
necessarily reveal the Virgin, but squint a little
and the image coalesces. Once seen, it turns into a
slyly acerbic emblem of womanly duty, with a gently
ironic (sorry) assertion that clean laundry is next
to godliness. While the devoted homemaker is the
archetype inApparizione of the Ironing Board,
a fairy-tale princess is conjured up inLa Scarpa
(The Shoe). The shoe itself, formed from lasagna
noodles, was ensconced on a velvet pillow on a
Like these constructions from the late "90's, the
recent works comment on the related roles of food,
religion and women in Italian-American culture.
Tessuto di Vita (The Fabric of Life) is a tapestry
of spaghetti noodles; the mildly tattered surface
is painted with the image of the ascending Virgin.
The title suggests that religion doesn't trump
food, nor the reverse. Other works are more
visceral. For paired versions ofSalsiccie/Suck in Your Gut
Venditelli crafted a slim dress form from lace and
sausage casings, creating a curious metaphor for
woman viewed as a carnal object, desirable if she
assumes the right form. There is measured anger in
this work, fueled by memories of the demand to be,
in her words, "The Madonna on one hand and Sophia
Loren on the other." But the absurdity of such
expectations becomes the catalyst for her barbs.
Extreme devotion to her craft shows in all
Venditelli's art. Her method for making tapestries
from noodles is remarkable to behold, if also
amusing due to the uniqueness of the ambition. Her
mock stained-glass windows made from colored pasta,
which were designed for the cafe at the Museum of
Contemporary Art San Diego, are equally obsessive.
They were part of an installation exhibited earlier
in 2006, precisely suited to its site and aptly
titledVede La Luce/See the Light.
Venditelli knows how to manipulate conventional
icons and make them work for her. "Mary Magdalene
and Friends"emphasized good-natured satire, even as
its humor and wit often concealed a sharper edge.
Robert L., "San Diego, Lisa Venditelli at David
Zapf", Art in America, February 2007