An ancient culture of people and places that humbles you with beauty, colors, sounds, smells, long history and all its variances. All your senses are besieged simultaneously with sweet and pungent smells, colors of beauty and squalor, gentle and jarring movements, silky and gritty textures, sounds that clutter the mind and soothe the soul. India, inexplicable in all of its wondrous ways of being, I present to you.
A small island that bursts with colors, passion and song. The people are hardworking but not hardened. The history laid bare among the crumbling of its buildings and trees for all to see or ignore. Cuba has a pulse of its own that permeates the air and enters you as you breathe in the Carribbean wind. A pulse that cannot be explained alone by the drumming in the street, the rumbling of cars living beyond their ages, the shouts of a soon to be settled disagreement, the song of children playing, or the passion of a spontaneous dance between two on a street corner. A pulse that echoed familiar in my caribbean blood, and home to me the land it seemed.
For now, Belize is winning the struggle to balance growth and tourism while preserving its natural lands. Belize is a culture that is rich with natural land regions, cultural influences, histories and spices. Not to be confused with a melting pot. Each peoples maintain their distinct identities presented in traditions, rituals and beliefs. Yet, its people, its culture, its varied land regions create a place where the differences construct a durable weaving of cultures and natural resources seamlessly woven together while maintaining the original trait of each weave. It’s people are not of one but multiple cultures and among them are the Maya, Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Mennonites, blending too with East Indian, Middle Eastern, Indian and Asian influences. All existing effortlessly upon land and waters just as varied and beautiful.
The history of this place is as colorful and prideful today as the days of the Mayans. Each region varied in landscape, yet seamless with threads of a culture rich in art, sciences, spirituality and traditions among this land and its stones. I hear the steps of the mighty Mayans along the ancient stone and the words of the ancient tongues among its people today. The connection to the spiritual and earthly, the passion for tomorrow and yesterday is seen everywhere in the colors of this beautiful land.
Italy, where a culture's very existence became so important to our understanding of art, sciences, politics, and love. A culture and people whose passions and discoveries allowed for a playwright to immortalize a love between Romeo and Juliet, and without which Titian's red would never have seduced us or the use of the arch in monumental architecture would not have elevated us. The fact that it is the country which has the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for cultural preservation is testament to its contributions to our cultural experiences. During my travels here, I was entranced by Italy's architectural feats juxtaposed with its surrounding nature. While walking among a dirt road outside of Lucca, among the rocks of the Roman Forum, under an archway into a vast space of light, gliding atop the surface of the water in the Floating City, or eating al fresco under the stars hearing the music within, you are always surrounded by the deep passion of its history.
Dreaming of the birthplace of Athena, where the Sirens and characters like Echo, Icarus, Jason also lived, I chose Greece to be the land I traveled to first. It is truly a land of the Gods and of yearning humans. There are arid mountains where you could fall asleep under the olive trees, pebble beaches where you can stand peering out at sea looking for Odysseus, villages with fruit sellers selling the sweetest peaches you could ever taste from wooden wagons, and lush gardens with smells of the fragrant plants that drip scents and sweeten the air like the nectar of the gods. I have since returned numerous times, to immerse myself in the mythical culture that gave birth to the original Titans. The people are passionate without pretense, the waters brilliant and flowing, the land welcoming as only Gaia can be. It is where I first saw a red moon and where part of my heart will always remain, yearning.
Looking upon these photographs of Egypt, the Arab Spring comes to mind. I wonder where all these faces were during the uprising. Where are they now? What happened within the walls and spaces captured among these photographs? The culture of Egypt, historically or today, is not to be taken lightly. Walking through the lands of Egypt, the air feels heavy. A seriousness weighed down by its powerful history envelops you as you walk among the walls and its people. I found moments of playfulness that would briefly appear only to disappear as soon as they came. A culture that can build the Sphynx and the Valley of the Kings need not explain to anyone the solemn way of its people. The cacophony of the streets remind you the people are alive, the rhythm continues, the pulse of Egypt has not faded. Egypt is strong and calmly ready for what will come.
This body of work is devoted to the essence of existence and the question of its persistence. I am probing the evidence or mark of existence. When I enter a space unknown to me, I try to imagine a familiarity within the environment. Who has walked here before me? Who will walk after me? Will my presence be perceived or will the essence of my existence have melted into the walls of this space? Having always been interested in the history of places, people and objects, I am creating works that explore the history of existences. I travel to places of ancient ruins, recording these wonders of the past with my camera. Within these places, a feeling of life persisting pervades. The sensation I experience while walking across ancient stones and through the aged walls touches within. It is as if the stone laid so long ago wishes to reveal those who walked here before me. The persistence of such existences, either imagined or real, is represented in my work.
To create simulations of artifacts discovered among ruins, I have chosen materials prone to imperfections and natural decay. I combine photography, sculpture and painting to convey forms appearing or disappearing through surfaces. I create images, representing an environment. Then, combine the images with plaster casts of human forms that feel to have existed within the environment portrayed. I transfer the images to the sculptures, and paint to augment an illusory perception of the object’s histories. These works address the enigma of existence. Does the essence of our existence permeate that which remains of our surroundings? Do we leave our mark? Will there be evidence of our existence after today?
Or is it as Karl Marx wrote, “All that is solid melts into air.”?
Anisha Blanés Kall