BY MARCY SHORTUSE - There aren’t many among us who haven’t felt like Sisyphus at one time or another. The king of Greek mythology who was banished to a fate of rolling a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, for eternity is a metaphor for many things.
Some say he represents the sun, which rises in the east every day and sets in the west. Others say it signifies man’s endless struggle on the earth.
Legendary artist Mariana Alzamora, whose name is well-known in Boca Grande, has recently been honored by the Victoria and Albert Museum of London for her series of etchings titled “Sisyphus Redeemed.” Recently the museum added seven of the etchings to their collection.
An etching is made from etched copper plates, inked and printed. Because she superimposes many plates to get an image, most are difficult to repeat so each one is a "monoprint", therefore unique.Mariana explained how the museum’s recognition of her work came about.
“We went to the V&A as my friend, Geoff Macewan, knows the senior curator of the print and drawing department,” she said. “She liked the series of Sisyphus, 2011, and accepted a print portfolio of seven etchings for their public collection. She was curious about the particular technique I use of overlaying the plates. I sometimes use up to five, or even more, overlays of different plates. They become layers of time, as the plates are instances or thoughts, ideas or words to make a visual sentence, a type of language.”View More images >>
Mariana said she received a letter from “The Keeper of Word and Image” at the museum.
“He thanked me for my donation,” she said. “Then he said, ‘As you know, the V&A has an internationally-important collection of prints, historic and contemporary, and these beautiful and accomplished prints are very welcome additions to our holdings. I know they will be of great interest to out visitors, and in particular the many students who use the Print and Drawing Study Room.’”
While Mariana still does her classic work with ceramics, and is often commissioned to do work on the island in that medium, her etchings have become a passion. She may have moved away from Gasparilla Island about 10 years ago, but the 30 years she spent on the island still have an impact on her art, and in her mind’s eye.
Her good friend, islander Art Favreau, has some of her etchings in his possession. Several of them show the famous archway that leads to the beach from the Sharp Estate. She explained the importance of that archway, and how it ties in with the Sisyphus collection.
“The archway has been, for me, a very special symbol in my work,” she said. “We went swimming in front of it for years, and it was a reminder of an ancient land, mystery and myths. A romantic person had it brought from another place and time as an entrance to the beautiful Gulf, the sea. In my work, it means the unconscious, richness, mystery and beauty. It cleanses, it centers, and renews ourselves. “Also, I was shown it is a time keeper, as the sun on its passage north fills its center around March 6, and once, a few minutes after the new year, I saw the half moon rise and fit perfectly in one of the inverted arches of the wall of the estate. I felt I was in the right place, at the right time, and my cup full. It also became the arch through which I had to leave, to (hopefully) mature in the world outside the garden, the paradise island.”
Mariana said the characters that overlay the arch seem to be from Greek mythology, and they remind her of the figures on the vases.
“Later it was clear to me that it could be Sisyphus,” she said. “When I concluded the series of pieces in clay for the exhibition I called “Ecdysis,” his rock had appeared and I etched it next to the image of a man shedding an old skin, a life lived. I concluded it was Sisyphus, redeemed; partly because our generation was reaching the age of retirement, partly because we needed to pause and see what, and where, we should be going, considering the earth and other species.”
Mariana currently lives in Mallorca, Spain. Her web site, marianaalzamora.com, contains many images of her artwork. If you would like to view some of her etchings, you can also call Art at 268-4096.
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