Layering of Time: The Visionary World of Giovanna Cecchetti’s Art

West Branch Gallery
Oct 6, 2015 4:00AM

The making of art is a never-ending, continuous series of decision making. Having too many choices can be as stressful as having no choice, as Giovanna Cecchetti can certainly attest. “In 2002, I realized having an unlimited amount of choices was just too stressful. I needed to set limits, so I decided to use the circle as an element to work with. Later this expanded to triangles, then squares, rectangles, and parentheses marks, broadening the language while still maintaining boundaries.”

Cecchetti begins each new painting by first choosing a ground color, which sets the mood of the painting. Using a cold wax glaze to fix the color in place, she builds up successive layers of paint, sanding the surface continually. The wax protects the underlying layers from disappearing over the course of the painting’s progress. “As layers of motifs are added, there may be areas where prior layers and more recent layers merge into each other — confusing time. I like this concept of confusing time,” Cecchetti said. Different oil paint pigments vary the drying time of her paintings. This process demands patience and is not conducive to spontaneity. But, as she says, “I prefer to calculate the detail of each decision so spontaneity is a trait I have no attachment to.”

Mahamrityunjaya (Om Namah Shivaya)
West Branch Gallery

Lately, Cecchetti has been embellishing her artwork with embroidery. The embroidered thread adds a textural element to the super-smooth surface of her oil paintings on linen. The works on paper use many different materials: ink, pastel, pencil, color pencil, acrylic or oil paint, and mica. She said that, “After the thread is in place, I use a mixture of melted beeswax, sometimes mixed with ground mica, and brush this mixture over the whole surface of the paper. The wax mixture cools quickly, so I re-melt the wax using a hot iron, which soaks the wax into the paper’s surface leaving only a residue of wax visible, and fixes the thread to the paper.”

Formal concerns of composition, balance, and pattern are of great importance to Cecchetti. “I strive for the harmonious, what is balanced, and avoid aggression.” The subject of her paintings comes from visionary experiences she’s had during her spiritual, ritual, and ceremonial practices. “My works have a devotional aspect; a live conscious spirit embedded within them,” she said.

Untitled I
West Branch Gallery

Brice Marden has been a great influence on Cecchetti’s work, partly because his paintings seem to have a sensual, smooth surface. Other influences are paintings of the Aboriginal people of Australia, as well as the embroidered designs of the Shipibo women in the Amazon region of Peru. “I also feel a close affinity to those visionary artists whose work explores the psychedelic realms, like Alex Gray and Fred Tomaselli,” she said.

Cecchetti takes great care in selecting and preparing her materials. She chooses a heavyweight but smooth linen, sizes the linen with Rabbit Skin glue, then applies a thin coat of titanium white. Preparing the canvas by building up successive coats of the white oil paint and sanding each layer can take up to a month. Her favorite oil paints are made by Williamsburg and Old Holland. “There’s nothing more wonderful than working with gorgeous pigments in quality paints,” she said.

Serpiente Violet/Green
West Branch Gallery

Cecchetti has been awarded a Dave Bown Project grant; a fellowship in painting from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; funding from the Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Foundation; as well as fellowships for residencies at Wild Acres, North Carolina, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Brodsky Center at Rutgers University. She presently teaches Contemporary Color Theory at the William Paterson University. Cecchetti’s studio is located in a converted silk mill in the Great Falls National Historic District in Paterson, New Jersey.

Whirling atomic structures, shamanic dreams, and neurological networks are the mysteries of Giovanna Cecchetti’s art. These unseen, visionary worlds are difficult, almost impossible to portray. Yet Cecchetti somehow manages to describe them beautifully in her work. She said that the end result of a painting can be the answer to her original yet unknown compulsion that initiated the work in the first place. “The question at the beginning is,” she said. “What needs to exist that does not yet exist?” A big question with profound results.

Follow West Branch Gallery on Artsy.

West Branch Gallery