Latin American Artists-in-Residence Create Sculptural Ecosystems in New London


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NEW LONDON — Two fragile ecosystems populated by imaginary animals and shifting polygonal forms create a small-scale yet monumental world in a new sculptural installation at the Expressiones Cultural Center at 84 Bank St., on view through April 30. 

The collaborative show, called “Trailblazing,” is the culmination of artists Iliana Scheggia and Ramón Ostolaza’s 3-month residencies at the center, which promotes Latin American culture. 

Artists-in-Residence Iliana Scheggia and Ramón Ostolaza, Expressiones Cultural Center, New London

The couple —from Lima, Peru — said they’ve been asking each other questions about the structure and nature of the universe for the 12 years they’ve been together. In this show, they probe those questions, each using their own visual language. 

Scheggia works with clay, creating geometric forms  — polyhedrons that seem to open and close, multiply and divide, fold inwardly and outwardly, stack and unstack as they scale from a small shape into larger and larger iterations that form hierarchies and fractal sequences.  

“My work revolves around the construction of space and how we relate to it. I have always been attracted to the nature of the universe and how it is configured; what is its origin; what is beyond the visible and how it works as well as, what is my role within it,” Scheggia said. 

Sculptural installation by Iliana Scheggia, an artist-in-residence at Expressiones Cultural Center, New London

She has worked in ceramics for six years, but had no access to a kiln to fire the clay pieces she created in New London. But, she said, the ephemeral nature of unfired clay became part of her concept of the work. 

“The challenge is that there’s no kiln here, so I said what if I just make this and it’s not going to last? It is fragile when you move it – it is going to break, it’s not going to last. Like everything in life, it breaks down, it will become dust.” 

In contrast to Scheggia, Ostalaza creates organic animal-like forms using a more durable material: epoxy. A former forestry engineer, he said he has created an imaginary ecosystem — called the MicroMacro project — that is a metaphor for how ideas take shape and grow. 

“Ecology and animals have always been part of my language and each creature is a kind of thought,” he said. 

Sculptural installation by Ramón Ostolaza, an artist-in-residence at Expressiones Cultural Center, New London

Ostalaza’s “strider” — a three-toed, four-legged creature with a spike-covered proboscis and tendrils growing from its back — towers over a smaller, six-legged amphibian-like creatures that crouch and move among the shadows and spaces of Scheggia’s pieces. Nearby, an ancient snail-like creature with overlapping scales appears to move slowly through the environment. 

“You have big thoughts, your ‘striders,’ those are your main ideas. The smaller ones, the tiny creatures, are the secondary ideas and they feed on the big one,” said Ostalaza. “It’s like in nature, you’ll have a large animal, like an elephant, and around the elephant you’ll have a lot of smaller animals living in that ecosystem.” 

Scheggia and Ostalaza said their ecosystems are a metaphor for”the evolution of thought and the fragility of processes, as well its sustainability over time.”

The work is, they said, “a reflection on the need to renew strategies and knowledge to avoid stagnation and extinction.”

Where: Expressiones Gallery, 84 Bank St., New London, CT

When: April 9-30, 2022, hours vary – call 860-501-9278