San Diego
Lisa Venditelli at David Zapf
Images 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 faux-antique tapestries.

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 in
Apparizione of the Ironing Board, a fairy-tale princess is conjured up in La Scarpa (The Shoe). The shoe itself, formed from lasagna noodles, was ensconced on a velvet pillow on a mass-produced pedestal.

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 of
Salsiccie/Suck in Your Gut #1, 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 titled
Vede 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.

Pincus, Robert L., "San Diego, Lisa Venditelli at David Zapf", Art in America, February 2007