Artist Christine Palamidessi in  her summer studio in Puglia, Italy.  Shown here working in the arte povera technique of cartapesta.. 

Looking inside the plaster mold at the first layer of paper layering. Tools nearby.

Looking inside the plaster mold at the first layer of paper layering. Tools nearby.

The "raw' cartapesta sculpture  that I pull out of the mold before it  is painted, collaged, or made hard or stone-like with hardening agents.

The "raw' cartapesta sculpture  that I pull out of the mold before it  is painted, collaged, or made hard or stone-like with hardening agents.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Christine Palamidessi studied with mask-makers and cartapesta artisans in Venice, Rome, and Lecce, Italy.  Her body crests and breastplates have been on exhibit in Boston’s State House and galleries in Boston, Washington DC,  Woodstock, Vermont, Pittsburgh, and galleries in Tel Aviv, Otranto and Spongano, Italy. Her work is held in collections in Europe, the United States, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Palamidessi is a  published novelist. THE VIRGIN KNOWS and THE FIDDLE CASE are both available on line, as ebooks, and in libraries. She is editor of the book AMERICAN WOMEN, ITALIAN STYLE,  For 12 years she taught writing and Ethnic Literature at Boston University.

“Grandmothers,” her memoir, is engraved on a granite monolith and installed as public art at Boston's MBTA station, Jackson Square, on the Orange Line.

Palamidessi's awards include the Barbara Demming Award for Women Artists, an UrbanArt award for public art, a Dante Alighieri Fellowship, BAU Institute residency, and Mass MoCA residency.

Palamidessi is a long-time Iyengar yoga practitioner and yoga teacher.

 

About My work

I enjoy getting my hands dirty and working with materials--plaster, paper, wire, wood and lights--and then painting or bending and layering those materials

.One material I go back to over and over again is paper. Paper is simply exciting: Write on it, color it, bend and wet it. Fold it. Harden it. Maybe I'm fascinated with paper because I wrote the novel and was a professional writer for the first 25 years of my career. However, with the advent of internet, paper flew away and the screen emerged.  I wanted to hold paper again.

I found my niche. For the past decade I've been working with the Italian cartapesta technique that  I learned from an Italian artisan in Lecce, Italy, where the art form has a long history. To create many of my sculptures, I use a glue-less paper, wheat glue, and plaster. Just as in the traditional execution of the craft, I form the sculptures by working inside a plaster mold. In my case, the molds are most often made over human models. I prefer human scale, classical design and process all my art from the inside out. The intention is to reveal the Inner Self. What emerges on the surface of my art has its root inside the person/figure/torso.

I make my  molds from plaster. Working inside the mold, I carefully puzzle and layer successively larger pieces of torn paper. I begin by pressingf 1/2” by 1/2” pieces of paper inside the mold, starting at the rim and working toward the center. The small pieces fit snugly together with very minimal overlap. The next layer of puzzled paper is 1” by 1” ; the next 2” x 2”; the next 4” x 4” and so on for 8 layers.  Paper is moistened with water and wheat paste.

When wet, Lecce paper is flexible, clay-like. Working the layers against the mold and over the preceding layers requires a lot of thumb action and just the right pressure so as to eliminate air pockets. An air pocket would result in dip, lump, and/or a bubble on the surface.

The paper cures/dries in the mold and is then removed.

Sometimes the artistic process stops here.  Or, I may collage on the sculpture, paint it, or compress it to make a printing plate.  Or I might weave lights inside the sculpture. Or silk threads. Other times, using plaster or another agent,  I harden the sculpture to be like stone.