Geneva artist makes objects her affection
GENEVA – When Rita Grendze finds materials that she could use in one of her sculptures, she usually hangs onto them for at least a few years before they become a part of her artwork.
The materials she uses become part of the message, and she tends to make social commentary in her work.
"I usually have to sit on [materials] for a while," she said. "I love a well-made thing, and I like it to look like someone's touched it. I like to have a little humanity in them. Every time you touch it, it becomes more familiar."
Grendze, of Geneva, said she uses a lot of repetitive elements in her work. When she's not at home with her two children, she's usually at Water Street Studios in nearby Batavia working on her next project, which most recently involves books.
She has been collecting old and used books for a series about literacy, interpretation and spreading a message. She received a box of old hymnals that were in bad shape and she's in the process of repurposing them into a new sculpture.
"[Hymnals] have a lot of meaning to a lot of people," she said. "It's powerful in and of itself."
Her book series, "Well-Read," includes one piece that was recently on display at the Batavia Public Library called "Trying to Remember Books Loaned to Friends."
The piece was an entire installment. The piece starts on one side of the room with a bunch of closed books and morphs into open books, and eventually pages scatter out of them at the other end of the room.
Another book series piece includes open books with Rorschach inkblots on the pages – a comment about how each person interprets words differently. Another piece called "The Fire Inside" features books with shades red covers with ashes underneath them – a comment about how the message of a book carries on once it's been read, even if it's burned.
Beyond books, Grendze's work includes commentary about how coffee is such a social drink. To convey that, she and another artist strung together 1,000 paper coffee cups and attached them to what looks like an old switchboard. Those who view the art can actually pick up a cup and hear someone speak.
"I like it when people can touch the work," she said.
Her earlier work started with wearable art. Pants made of fingers with red painted nails, for example, were Grendze's comment about having to wear "social armor."
"I've always wanted to make a social commentary," she said. "I can't help it. I read too much and talk to too many people."
She said bits of her life are usually infused into her art. One piece that's on display at Water Street Studios, called "Untethered," is a stretch of ceramic pieces that represent bell-like stumps tied together with ropes. Grendze said she wanted to convey stumps in a harbor that look forlorn, washed away and lonely, as if they're waiting to be tied to something.
She said part of her inspiration came from her parents being immigrants, and feeling that sense of loss from being "untethered."
"I think it's hard not to put yourself in your pieces," Grendze said. "It's natural."
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