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Francesco Simeti
Brooklyn, NY

ARTIST STATEMENT: I am interested in the relationship that we have with our natural environment and our surroundings and what role the media might play in such relationship. I have been increasingly exploring the idea of wilderness and how we often consider ourselves other than nature rather than part of it. Through research over the years I have accumulated an archive of historical botanical iconography that I collage into fictional landscapes where nature seems to be prevailing rather than succumbing. These landscapes are occasionally context specific, iconographically based on indigenous plant life, local cultures and art history. In this work I question the general assumptions we make in our relationships with nature, not seeking to find answers, but rather to suggest questions and invite reflection. Through intricate decoration and often dreamlike landscapes culled from archives and libraries, I strive to create a tension that gently prompts the viewers into diving deeper and creating their own line of inquiry. I consider Art a learning tool, a more instinctive approach to understanding and perhaps critiquing the environment we live in. Through complex visuals, rich in information and aesthetic appeal, I hope to jumpstart critical thinking and active participation. Over the years the work has taken many forms originating from stone carving that I studied in Art School, to printmaking and digital collages often outputted as wallpaper environments, to site-specific installations, to ceramic sculpture.?Whatever the form, the work is ultimately project based and tends to be a direct result of its time and its context and sometimes it is as a response to an invitation or commission. For example, in “Accordant Landscape”, my project for the County Health Department in Portland, Oregon, I have utilized a variety of materials, including mosaic, printed tiles, glass, textile, and 3D printed sculpture and have interpreted the regional Oregon landscape and its endangered flora. The building itself has been designed to provide a calming atmosphere for those it serves: individuals facing addiction, mental health challenges and the large homeless population in Portland. My public art installation works in service of these goals, while simultaneously questioning and investigating human engagement with and impact on nature. In my 2012 installation for the Bensonhurst station on the NYC subway, I took inspiration from flora that is culturally significant to the Chinese and Italian communities that make up the neighborhood fabric and created a fictional landscape relevant to both cultures. A central role was allotted to the rose and the lily, traditional attributes of the virgin Saint Rosalia, the patroness of my home city Palermo, who is celebrated each year with great emotional involvement by the Italian community. For Open Source Gallery, Swell (2017), I presented a site-specific, kinetic installation that engaged with the history of the Gowanus Canal, a local, polluted waterway in Brooklyn. I worked with local historian Eymund Diegel to collect historical and contemporary images related to the canal. To create the moving parts of the installation, I collaborated with local resident and artist Jeff Leonard. During the exhibition, I worked with the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy on a children’s workshop that took inspiration from my exhibition, encouraging the children explore the history of the Gowanus Canal and reflect on their relationship with their local environment in Brooklyn.

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