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Forgotten Forms (2007-2008)

In October 2007, I traveled to Italy on a Fulbright grant to embark on a project that would thread together many of my artistic interests: trauma, memory, and physical presence. For the better part of a year I lived in Naples, where I partook in the chaotic and lawless atmosphere of the city, a departure point from which to spend many days at the ancient city of Pompeii. There, I made drawings of the plaster casts of the people who were killed by the original eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, when Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other outlying Vesuvian cities were destroyed, and strangely preserved for posterity. The plaster casts were made from the empty cavities that the original decomposed bodies had left behind, revealing surprisingly descriptive details along with rough, abstract areas created by the casting process. 

In the restoration lab where many of the bodies still lie outside of the visitor’s view, I encountered many shattered pieces of rock, plaster, and ceramic, all lying about, some arranged in shapes in an attempt to reconstruct a fresco or vase, others in boxes or just looking like rubble. Where did the stone or clump end and where did the bit of humanity and history begin? I found the process akin to artistic discovery and I began making black and white paintings that, like the fragments in the laboratory, were a primal attempt to discover human shapes within stones and objects within boxes. Limiting my materials to black and white acrylic on paper allowed me to keep the elements of painting simple, on a par with the deceivingly easy task of creating forms out of the void.

Forgotten Forms

Forgotten Forms 2
Three Again

Three, Four

Rocks on Table
Package (Cross-section)
Package 2

Package 3

Open Gift



© Aitana de la Jara