Assemblages by Vivian Cavalieri
Just as urban gentrification forces long-time inhabitants to move out of their neighborhoods, deforestation forces creatures living in the forest (here, gray wolves) out of their homes, often prompting them to move into urban areas. A pile of money sits on one of the stumps, referencing the forces that encourage deforestation. A necklace I previously designed blends with the various shades of forest greens and browns with burgundy pearls as a contrast. Realistic animal models, pearls, Murano glass, green garnet, wood, art board, paper, fabric, museum glass.
Hope (The Guiding Light)
Highlighting the plight of refugees using two Tarot cards. The sadness inspired by the hunched figure of the Six of Swords is balanced out by the Hermit, who holds a source of light, here symbolizing the possibility of a brighter future. The cards are placed against scrapbook paper showing faded maps to indicate the problem exists worldwide. A necklace I previously designed is set against a ribbon and represents the ocean over which the refugees hope to escape. The yellows and blues of the scene are reflected in the necklace segment made with citrine, Murano glass and freshwater pearls. Below the surface, swims a multi-colored fish from a Williams Sonoma plate, representing the possible dangers on this sea voyage.
In contrast to the fluffy, imaginary representation of polar bears, this one by Fabergé reflects the animal’s aggressive side. I thought it paired well with the cool tones of a beige, white and pale blue necklace I had designed years ago. The necklace had always reminded me of ice even though it is composed of shell and freshwater pearls as well as Murano glass beads. Other materials include mirrors, paper and a found object (an oyster shell).
The Ocean Floor
This fish looks directly at the viewer as it swims above an ocean floor filled with trash. A gentle reminder to protect our fragile seas. Created with dollhouse miniatures, shells (found objects), carnelian, Murano glass, freshwater pearls, fish designed by Marc Lacaze, ribbon, mirror, and art board,
Nature vs. Art: The Striped Tulip
I was inspired to create a series I called Nature vs. Art when I noticed that the color combinations in some of the necklaces I have designed over the years match or blend with combinations found in nature.
The burgundy and white striped tulip displayed in the upper left reminded me of a miniature striped Art Deco sofa designed for a dollhouse. Striped tulips evolved by natural selection. Feathering and striping developed some time in the 1600s as a response to a virus.
The necklace hanging from the balcony was designed before seeing either the drawing or the miniature sofa, but I found the three items blended well. In creating this artwork, I added among the necklace strands several small roses cannibalized from a Moschino purse. The work also includes a depiction of a portion of a Chinese scroll, a large rose from the Moschino purse, paper, ribbon, paint and miniature frames designed for a dollhouse.
Second Victory (Keep Us Flying)
During World War II service members in segregated units fought valiantly on behalf of the United States despite the racism they faced at home and even in the military while fighting and dying for their country. These service members fought for a “Double Victory” over both fascism and racism.
Despite showing outstanding bravery, survivors of units such as the Nisei and Tuskegee airmen were treated as second-class citizens when they returned home. The first victory was won in 1945, but 80 years later they are still fighting for the second.
My starting point was an iconic World War II poster portraying Tuskegee Squadron hero Major R. Diaz. Referring to the Tuskegee airmen, the poster asks Americans to “Keep Us Flying” by buying war bonds. I isolated the head of the airman from that poster and placed it in the frame to the lower left of this mixed media. I positioned him so that he looks directly towards an eagle that represents the United States. The eagle was painted by my Italian grandmother in the early 20th century.
Symphony of Yellows and Blues
I love the combination of yellow and blue and especially the contrast between ocher and teal. Several years ago, I created a necklace highlighting shades of aqua and cream. Having recently found an antique stylized image of a European fish, I instantly thought of the necklace and was inspired to create a framed sculpture to combine the two along with a range of yellows and blues including gold and light aqua.
The lotus symbolizes rebirth because this striking flower emerges from muddy water. This work was inspired by a desire to escape from the current turmoil throughout the world. I wanted to create an object that would lift a viewer’s spirit through its beauty and meaning.
Memories from the Attic
This assemblage provides a visual representation of the “memories that come spilling out” when you see an object that takes you back in time. The storage attic as a metaphor for the mind. The vielle rose shade of the velvet backdrop suggests a bygone era. The slight sadness of that shade is counterbalanced by the shininess of the red and gold Murano glass and the white and copper freshwater pearls in the necklace falling from the pail. An ivory doll has been lovingly cradled in beige fabric in the trunk as a reminder of childhood toys packed away in an attic.
This mixed media work was inspired by the eyes of the model for "Pavonia", an 1859 oil painting by the British artist Frederic Leighton. While the model appears pallid in the original, her eyes convey strength and determination transcending the compliance expected of women at the time. Wondering what she would have looked like had she been painted more vibrantly, I digitally manipulated a photograph of the painting, creating this assemblage around it but maintaining her eyes as the focus. The modified "painting" hangs in a room covered with yellow floral wallpaper, a pea-green carpet and a large mirror that provides a sense of depth and form, making the half-moon table set against it seem round. To the left hangs a necklace segment matching the yellow, green and orange tones found elsewhere.
The Artist's Intermission (The Music Room)
A visual representation of a temporary pause in the creative process. Creating a work of art is rarely a straightforward process — an artist may change direction, take wrong turns and retreat, discard a work, never to resume it, or set it aside, only to return to it years later. The empty frame on the wall symbolizes the unfinished work. The music stand, pushed aside and back towards the corner of the room, the placement of the tuba and violin on the burgundy sofa and the trumpet on the gold pillow suggest that the instruments were recently played and may soon be picked up again.
Nature Inside and Out
A reminder of the vigor of nature. The mirror hanging in this green room is decorated with coral and pale yellow cut flowers from the garden outside the window. A gardener, represented by the watering can and the red boots, tends the plants. But nature resists efforts to contain it, forcing its way in through the window.
Here, a jumble of marine snails — known as "oyster drills"— tumble out of a bathtub onto the bathroom floor. This particular kind of snail feeds on oysters. We find them all over our sustainable oyster farm. No matter how hard we try to keep them out, they find a way into the oyster cages. At least their shells make nice found objects.
Our minds tend to wander when we perform boring or repetitive tasks. This tailor is so engaged in her daydream that her body is no longer seated at her sewing machine but is instead deep-sea diving. The velvet fabric she sews morphs into the dark blue ocean into which she dives. A cobalt and white necklace segment serves as the trim to the fabric she sews and the transition between her fantasy and reality. Found objects — shells and sand — complete the fantasy.
On the Rocks
Conceived in 2020, this assemblage is a metaphor for the disruption and chaos caused by Covid-19 and our inability to control our lives. Water overflows this bathtub even though the plug has been pulled. Fabric is sewn to mimic ocean waves as the many shades of blue — pale, teal, aqua, sapphire — reinforce the aquatic theme. It was inspired by a miniature crate of fish on ice and the phrases: “vodka on the rocks” and “a ship on the rocks”. Just like a ship on the rocks, we are at the mercy of nature. As the water spills over the rim of the bathtub, it carries with it a bottle of Absolut vodka on a raft of clear “ice”. The two items firmly attached to the wall — the miniature crate of fish and the cheery necklace segment — offer some hope of constancy.
Mother Nature's Watchful Eye
Mother Nature keeps an eye on us as she watches over the eggs in the bird’s nest, asking us to take an active role in protecting our planet. Earth tones — copper, various shades of brown — dominate the work, with a blue and brown necklace of freshwater pearls and Murano glass setting off the digitally manipulated photograph of a doll's blue eye.
In mythology, the phoenix dies by bursting into flames and rises anew from the ashes. Unlike the phoenix, which arises as powerful as before, a person may not return to the identical status, success, or ability as before but, with effort, good fortune and dedication, may still accomplish significant feats. The specific fall from grace inspiring this work was the resignation of Richard Nixon from the American presidency in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. While never fully overcoming the Watergate stigma, by the time of his death, he had acquired a reputation for expertise in foreign affairs, and his funeral was attended by former Presidents of the United States, the Secretary General of the United Nations, and numerous dignitaries including Presidents and Prime Ministers from countries around the world. The message of this work is to take full advantage of any second chances you may be offered.
A startled polar bear poised on an ice floe faces off with a temperate-water whelk moving northward as the ocean waters warm. The standoff is a consequence of the increasing acidity and temperature of the oceans, even at the North Pole, caused by global warming of the ocean waters itself due to climate change. The ice floe is formed by nuggets of natural quartz beads (a semi-precious stone) and surrounded by a single strand necklace designed for this sculpture. The design incorporates off-white natural quartz beads, bright white freshwater pearls and beads of Murano glass encasing silver foil. The floe is adrift atop blue velvet, the fabric sewn to mimic waves.
The Diner (Coming to America)
While initially inspired by thoughts of the worldwide refugee crisis, the assemblage became increasingly personal. The United States is represented by an American icon — a 1950s red and black and silver diner selling Coca Cola. The other items in this room symbolize the hardships faced by a refugee and the fear or the desperation that prompts someone to start a new life in another country, often at a moment's notice.
Be Still My Heart
This mixed media work playfully revolves around a depiction of Venus in a famous oil painting by the renowned Italian artist Titian. A photograph of a portion of his painting was digitally manipulated to make it appear that Venus is so taken with the necklace displayed nearby that she leans out of her golden frame to get a better look. To complement the green-blue tones of the wall and the aqua tone of the Murano glass beads in the necklace, the display stand is covered in velvet in a shade of green similar to that often used by Titian. The flesh tones of Venus are matched by the beige tones of the mother of pearl in the necklace.
Nature vs. Art: The Painted Peacock
Nature provides some magnificent color combinations to camouflage prey, to warn a predator or to attract a pollinator or mate. The similarity of some color combinations in my necklaces to those found in nature inspired me to create my Nature vs. Art series. The first such comparison centers on the painted peacock and an aqua, green and yellow-toned necklace. I paired them in this surrealist street scene.
A Domesticated Cat
In this surrealist scene, a lioness carrying her cub strolls through a museum in front of “paintings” (digitally manipulated photographs) of lions “crowned” with necklaces I designed. The lioness may be giving her cub an art lesson or showing him what he will become when he grows up. Either way, he wishes he were somewhere else, as indicated by his less-than-thrilled expression reflected in the mirror. The tawny colors of the lions in the photographs, the lioness and her cub contrast with the olive green walls and the reddish-brown wooden floor of the room. Intended to be seen close up, this assemblage fits well in small spaces.
This nursery exudes opulence — the thick mattress on the crib covered in a luxurious fabric, shimmering pink wallpaper, a golden birdcage and a mauve, purple and pink wreath of semiprecious stones and pearls. The beige crib shelters a bird's nest overflowing with eggs. The crib's protective slats contrast sharply with the bars of the nearby birdcage because, however beautifully designed, a birdcage is intended to confine, to limit freedom. Here, the nest represents a loving home environment, while the birdcage — with its door glued open — references both the parental duties of providing roots and wings and resistance to the crib-to-prison cycle entrapping so many young Black males.
Transformations (From Bibendum to the Michelin Man)
Dollhouse miniatures and digitally manipulated photographs highlight the changes in the image of the “Michelin Man” over the years. Initially frightening, this symbol of the Michelin Tire Company softened over time. To the left of the assemblage, a miniature red chair reminiscent of car tires is paired with an early poster in which the Michelin Man holds a goblet filled with nails and broken glass to highlight the strength of Michelin tires. Juxtaposed on the right is a more modern representation of the Michelin Man paired with a car tire and tools. Red, ochre and black.
What Price Silence?
The inspiration for this piece came from the stories of victims of sexual abuse emboldened to speak out by the #metoo movement. Victims were frequently threatened, shamed, bribed or cajoled into silence. The face comes from a photograph of a doll. The lower part of her face is hidden to symbolize an enforced silence. In contrast to her downcast eyes and the sadness they exude, the other elements of the assemblage symbolize the wealth and opportunities offered to a victim in exchange for silence: the blue-gray velvet backdrop, swirls of a luxurious mauve fabric and an elegant garland blending beads of rose quartz and off-white mother of pearl, pink and white freshwater pearls, and the amethyst Murano glass beads.
Art Seeks a Viewer
This mixed media evokes a room in a museum in which artworks vie for a viewer's attention. The muted colors of the off-white wall and marble floor highlight the items on display — a photograph of a necklace and three miniature Art Nouveau chairs. The subject of the photograph is so desperate to be noticed that it tumbles out of its frame. The vibrancy of its colors — royal blue, cobalt, aqua, gold and two shades of yellow — symbolize its urgency and the richness of its components — citrine, golden rutilated quartz, freshwater pearls and Murano glass beads — indicate its quality. In short, a playful and surrealistic commentary on the mutually dependent relationship between the work of art and the viewer.
The Treasure Chest
The mental image of a pirate's booty is a chest buried to hide its contents of gold, jewels, and other riches. This assemblage instead represents the moment that treasure fills the trunk. The "treasure" here is a cascading necklace designed with pink seashells, apatite (a semiprecious stone), freshwater pearls in several colors (teal, peach and plum/magenta), and Murano glass beads. Counterbalancing this waterfall is an elaborate depiction of lilies, petunias and other plant life rendered in lilac, cobalt and green against a rich gold background.
Nature Tamed and Untamed
As humans increasingly encroach on natural habitats, creatures existing in those habitats are “squeezed out”. In this work, untamed nature is represented by the wolf among the barren trees. On either side, the wolf is hemmed in by natural elements that have been modified by humans. The succulents to the right are chosen as decor because they fit atop stands inside a home. The oyster shell to the left has been positioned to resemble a wolf's den. At first glance the dark purple inside the shell appears to be the opening. But to indicate that the construction of houses in the area now prevents the wolf from entering the den, the entrance has been blocked by the rest of the oyster shell and the den's roof adorned with a necklace segment designed from freshwater pearls, shells and Murano glass. One-of-a-kind.
The Raven (Nevermore)
Starting with a realistic miniature of a raven, and with Edgar Allen Poe in mind, I anticipated composing a darker, more sinister piece. But when reading up on ravens, I discovered how playful and intelligent they are and decided to offer a more nuanced view of the bird. The playfulness of ravens is represented by a game board (the goose from the Jeu de l’oie board), their intelligence by a stack of books, and the sinister view in popular culture by a Tarot card (the 8 of Swords) as well as the prominence of the black frames.
A dalmatian mother educates her pups by taking them to a dog-themed art museum. A bulldog adorns each column and paintings of dogs hang on the walls. The paintings are digitally manipulated photos of real paintings of dogs, with the color cast adjusted slightly to blend with the amber, lilac and gold colors elsewhere in this sculpture.
The inspiration here was a found object — a fragment of coldwater coral that had washed up on a nearby seashore. Its whiteness reminded me of the bleaching of tropical coral reefs caused by global warming and climate change. Using primarily aquamarine, pale blue, silver, and white, this assemblage underlines the fragility of our oceans and seas. The title references the need to save not sinking ships but the ocean and, more broadly, to protect our environment.
The Misguided Coyote
Foxes and coyotes are increasingly seen in urban neighborhoods, where light pollution obscures the night sky. In this scene, a coyote howls at a streetlamp, mistaking it for the moon. A Boston terrier, a bulldog and a beagle look on confused. The “moon” is here represented by a segment of a necklace I designed using two semiprecious stones (agate and golden rutilated quartz), freshwater pearls and Murano glass.