Perhaps the digital artwork of Antonio Strafella isn’t so profane as it may at first seem. His series Spiritual Hero at once compares and juxtaposes saints and superheroes, the holy and the vulgar. Comic books are often thought of as the exclusive domain of young people, rarely taken serious. However, in a strange way the superheroes don’t seem exceptionally out of place in Strafella’s work. Indeed, many of the grand story lines of the characters featured by Strafella have clear Biblical references. He goes on to say:
“These icons have various aspects in common: saints do miracles and superheroes have superpowers, both are venerated, opening the conflict between faith and zealotry.”
Jessica Dalva is a Los Angeles-based artist who creates beautiful, wall-mounted sculptures depicting dark, fantasy imagery and the exploration of internal struggle. Recurring throughout her works is the feminine figure in various states of intensity and solemnity, such as sinking in a sea of grasping hands or engaged in somber rituals. Like religious artifacts, each sculpture carries a spiritual energy intended to resonate with the viewer. With metaphorical, mythological prowess, Dalva visually expresses the torments and transformations of subjectivity, from personal battles against fear, to moments of rapture and emotional healing.
Dalva’s works are currently being exhibited in a feature show titled Hapax Legomena at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery. “Hapax Legomena” refers to words that only occur once in a text or within a language, which often makes them untranslatable; Dalva uses the term to explore the singularity and ephemeral nature of an individual’s inner struggle. As outlined on the exhibition page:
“These experiences can be difficult to convey due to the lack of a context to anchor them, as well as the inherent gap between understanding and expression. The pieces are singular expressions of an idea, hapax legomena, in that they are representing distinctive concepts, as well as attempting to communicate the untranslatable through the imperfect language of art.” (Source)
An encounter with Dalva’s work is intended to be a subjective event, representative in some intuitive way of the hurdles encountered by everyone. Dalva’s darkly mystical works do an incredible job communicating the physicality of emotional pain and restoration; with their eyes fogged and eerie, the feminine figures become transcended forms, their bodies acting as expressive vehicles. It is left to the viewer to interpret the spiritual/emotional passage in which they are engaged.
Los Angeles based artist Michelle Kingdom creates intimate embroidered keepsakes. Working on a small scale, Kingdom is able to achieve a compact level of detail, allowing the work to fully invite the viewer into their tiny, unique worlds. Through stitching each piece with a high volume of thread, she achieves a specific density which she calls “compressed compositions.” Every embroidered work is inspired by a specific moment in time. Whether they are her own memories, emotional portraits that are personal or exploratory, literary scenes, or historical references, Kingdom’s work is formulated through building intense moments that are of intellectual importance. She refers to her work as “psychological landscapes,” in which her aim is to “illuminat[e] thoughts left unspoken…creat[ing] tiny worlds in thread to capture elusive yet persistent inner voices.” She explains further that “symbolism and allegory law bare dynamics of aspiration and limitation, expectation and loss, belonging and alienation, truth and illusion.” While her work is doubly contemporary and fun, she does note that her work does pay homage to the tradition of needlework. The delicate nature of the material and the intensive and intimate process of creation allows each piece to fully possess an aura of both elegance and fragility, mimicking the sort of nature of frail and strenuous emotional conditions. She states; “beauty parallels melancholy, as conventional stitches acquiesce to the fragile and expressive.”