Sunday, October 3, 2021


Marianne Lettieri, M.F.A.

June 2021

Simulacrum: “a copy from which no original exists, unsatisfactory imitation or substitute, essentially the copy of a copy.” Simulacra are not reflections or deceptions of reality. They simply obscure the fact that reality is irrelevant to a current understanding of our lives. We use our memories, photographs, writings, and artifacts to construct a perceived reality. 
Simulacrum is exactly what I had come to the Carolinas to investigate. And I had never heard the word until I received the one word text, “simulacrum,” from poet and fellow Rensing resident, Alexis Ivy.  I should interject here that I don’t especially play well with others when it comes to artistic collaboration. As an established visual artist, I am accustomed to long hours alone in the studio working through ideas and problems on my own. Of course I am inspired and influenced by many artists, and constructive feedback is always appreciated. But art making for me is primarily a solo gig. At Rensing, I was hanging with Alexis who is the same age as my child. We realized right off that our artistic explorations during the residency had tangential themes. Collaboration just happened. Over the next three weeks, we exchanged ideas and images. We also visited together repositories of local history and culture, such as Central Heritage Museum, Hagood Mill, Upcountry History Museum, Pickens County Museum of Art and History, Soapstone Baptist Church, and Twin Falls. Our collaboration was subtle, rich, and an unexpected bonus for me. I create mixed media constructions that explore shifts in individual values and cultural practices through the stuff we leave behind. I am interested in the interconnectedness of people and communities through time and the shared human desire to remember. Memory, however, is complex and ambiguous. People die or move away, landscape is altered, industries vanish, ways of thinking and doing change. The past persists into the present but altered in a way that boosts our personal identities and beliefs. My father’s people are from this “neck of the woods”— Upcountry to Blue Ridge Mountains —and I spent summers here as a child. The residency offered a unique opportunity for me to examine the deep history of this place through the lens of my constructed memories and respond with art making. Rensing’s location allowed me to also reconnect with family I had not seen in person for many years, sharing photos and stories over home cooked meals. It will all become art. On July 13, I celebrated my birthday with Alexis and my husband, who accompanied me to Pickens. We borrowed Ellen’s binoculars and sat outside in the dark, talking and finding star constellations. We even enjoyed a flyover of the International Space Station. Just before we called it a night, I saw a fabulous streaking meteor – a real fireball! Like a shooting star, the Rensing Artist Residency gave me a fabulous start on a new series of art works, for which I am excited and grateful.

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