Valerie Piraino’s show at Cindy Rucker gallery fell short of the high emotional and presentation expectations that I had preconceived before seeing the works. The research I had done of the artist’s previous and recent work had led me to believe that her slide projections on transplanted fireplace facades created a powerful presence of nostalgia. Unfortunately, the appropriated fireplace façade seemed to be swallowed whole by the gallery space. This, along with lighting that overpowered the images projected that were made impossible to make out. The same goes for her relief work of images of your average bedroom door. Not only did their installation seem careless, simply leaning against a wall, but also the images were about half the size of an actual door, a distraction that made it difficult to connect with the work. I’m more so disappointed with the unfortunate lack of marriage between the gallery space and the work, the two just didn’t do each other any favors and the lack of that unification made it difficult to view the work.
Piraino’s work is rooted in reconstructing or examining memories of her past family homes, typically by recreating a deteriorating space from her memory. Slide projections seem to be one of her strong suits, usually she imposes images onto extremely ornate, almost tacky wallpapered walls with empty picture frames, mirrors, and so on. installed. Using the carousel projector to display images of an individual’s past to evoke feelings of nostalgia is not uncommon; it’s something that has been almost beaten to death. That being said, I commend her intervention of something so repeated by adding the second step of projection plus installation, upholding the idea of a life lived. On the same topic, the idea of nostalgia has been so misused in art practices, often used to imply a yearning for a time that one was never a part of when in fact it’s meant to evoke a mourning for a time already experienced by the individual. Piraino stays true to these ideas, which lend themselves as a vehicle to her personal examination of her memory, which I find honest.