Deanna Sirlin: Borders of Light and Water at Palazzo Bembo

Featured Artist

Deanna Sirlin, Borders of Light and Water, 2022, C-print transparency on glass, 199.5 x 493 inches, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Italy

In Borders of Light and Water at Palazzo Bembo in Venice, American artist Deanna Sirlin utilizes the architecture and translucency of the large-scale windows overlooking the Grand Canal, to create a luminous and ever-changing patches of bold color. The beauty of this installation allures you in and prompts you to gaze out at the flickering water of the iconic canal below, raising awareness to what is at stake with rising water and changing climate. This installation is part of the Venice 2022 Art Biennial organized by the non-profit organization European Cultural Center, running from April 23, 2022 through November 27th, 2022.

Tell me about the idea behind this installation at the Palazzo in Venice and how do you see it in context of your overall work?

My immersive installations make viewers part of the painting through their large scale and the light that filters through the transparencies, casting intense, saturated color into the interior space. As the light travels through my work and into the gallery, it projects bands of color that move in the course of the day, tracking time. The work is fluid, following the movement of the sun and reflecting time and season. My use of transparency compels the outside world to become part of the work. I build up layers of color over implicit compositional grids. In this aspect, my work refers to the experience of navigating built environments, represented in plan view. This is not a purely aesthetic concern; the layering of the works reflects the sedimented history of the place, while my transformation of the space through light, movement, and color, seek to heal the scars inflicted by contemporary life.  

Deanna Sirlin, Borders of Light and Water (detail), 2022, C-print transparency on glass, 199.5 x 493 inches, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Italy

I create these works in a multi-step process that locates my composition within the context of the site while addressing it with the transparency. The work begins with a painting that I destroy and repurpose to create a new collage. This radical move of repurposing my paintings with cuts and tears that rupture the painted surface is a mediation on and reflection of contemporary life.

My installation Borders of Light and Water looks out on the Grand Canal from the windows of Palazzo Bembo. It evokes the Venetian word gibigiana, the flickering of light as it reflects off the water onto the bottom of a bridge. Even as I reference this extraordinary perceptual experience that is ubiquitous in Venice, I simultaneously draw attention to the global crisis of climate change, whose impact in Venice is manifest in dangerously rising water levels. This installation is a geometric composition of reflected light that provides a radical investigation of reality. I want to transform the observers’ viewpoint by engaging them with both the beauty of the environment and the threats to it through a dynamic composition and intense hue. As viewers see through these lines of transparent color, their viewpoints will be altered.

Deanna Sirlin, Watermark, 2022, C-print transparency on glass, 506 x 212 inches, Crosland Library, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Deanna Sirlin is known for work that combines painting, color and abstraction, technology, digital information and translation. Sirlin was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her BA in Art is from SUNY Albany; her MFA is from Queens College CUNY. She has shown her large-scale installations at the High Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, The Georgia Museum, Ca’ Foscari Venezia and the Fundação Eugénio de Almeida in Évora, Portugal. She has received grants including The Judith Alexander Foundation; The Nexus Fund; United States Artists; The National Museum of Women in the Arts; US State Department; and Creative Capital Warhol Foundation. Sirlin has had residencies at Yaddo; Mark Rothko Centre, Latvia; Cini Foundation, Venice, Italy; Padies, Lempaut, France; and from the City of Nuremberg, Germany. In 2022 she was the Artist-in-Residence at the Georgia Tech, creating a large-scale installation, Watermark which will be on view through the end of the year.