Artist Statement Pamela Crockett

A stunning hotel lobby in Montreal, St. Antoine, is designed to house artifacts that were buried and then excavated during the renovating of the new building. Items such as eyeglasses, bottles, ceramic chips, scissors, and nails were salvaged, cleaned, and carefully arranged in glass boxes/windows around the hotel. The presentation of the everyday bits and pieces of other people’s junk got me wondering how we decide what is ordinary, and what is sacred—what is worth saving, and what we throw away.

The same questions occurred as I studied a reliquary, by Naddo Ceccarelli, ca. 1350, from the Walters Art Museum. The gold frame surrounding the icon has several dozen holes covered by glass circles, each containing a sacred relic and a written description. How did each of the relics get saved over the centuries? What constitutes its sacredness? Finally, a trip to the Metropolitan Museum in New York got me pondering the same questions. In the Byzantine gallery, I noticed that often the container for the “sumptuous object” was at least as important and intricately designed as the object itself.

The panels in “Everyday Relics” are metaphorical containers for memories. Often personal, the objects contain stories about family and friends. The interplay of container and memory enhances the significance of both.

 Ambiguity of space in these panels is a hint that what is inside can seem larger than the container itself. Inspiration comes from Byzantine artifacts crafted to hold, preserve, and display sacred relics. Often embellished with fine detail, Byzantine objects require close inspection.

In these panels, the embedded objects may seem ordinary. Included, for example, are fragments of old reading glasses, broken jewelry and watches, buttons, springs, and calligraphy pen nibs. These everyday relics are the odd bits and pieces that settle to the backs of household drawers, surviving the sifting of what gets used and what gets thrown away. Although it is unlikely that the trinkets embody any sacred powers, they contain the memories and stories of their migration. They are, if not sacred, at once familiar and symbolic.

At first the series of panels was based on shallow space. The openings were small cut-outs or boxes hanging on a flat wall, creating smaller frames within the frames. Later, the paintings also included deeper space, the kind of space created by looking through door-frames or hallways, but with the main focus in the distance—a kind of reverse linear perspective.

My attempts to contain a greater space within a smaller are reminiscent of the tiny, winged casing of the maple seedling that contains the potential for an entire maple tree. Every piece in this series plays on the ambiguity of the large within the small, following the Byzantine sensibility which, in its freedom from strict linear perspective, makes way for small wonders.
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