Fontaine during her installation piece Por La Mañana: A Community Café at Hume
Fontaine Capel is a Brooklyn-born, Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist, curator, educator, and facilitator. Her understanding of the terms object, item and material go as follows:
Object : something that has a shared culture
Item: Multiples, multiplicity, a list
Material: thematic and literal; dynamic
While the focus of object / item / material / me is asking how people/artists utilize objects to explore and discuss their identities, a few questions keep crossing my mind: how do objects speak? How do we listen to them? The show explores identity through material culture, but what does it look like when an artist finds an object that ‘speaks’ to them? We use objects every day, but their presence tends to be ignored; they have no voice, and the only time that we seem to communicate with them is when we are utilizing them (and we only speak to them when it is from happiness in that we accomplished a task, or out of frustration when something does not go right).
In her work, Fontaine Capel gives inanimate beings a quiet voice by creating a dialog around their presence. Fontaine is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice is focused on object-based projects. The term ‘multi-disciplinary’ refers to an artist whose talent is not focused on one medium, and this is exemplified through Fontaine’s works: she sculpts, she creates performance, she fosters experiences, and she installs. But, the word also implies other factors of being an artist; besides being a creator, the artist is a teacher, a curator, and a facilitator. All of these come together in Fontaine’s oeuvre.
Installation for Por La Mañana: A Community Café, with a close up of the yucca root used
Originally from Brooklyn, Fontaine creates works that examines her Cuban-Argentinian-American heritage, with an emphasis on the physical markers of heritage and identity, and what experiences occur around them. During our interview, Fontaine explained that she straddles two worlds: that of her working class latin American immigrant heritage, and the culture of white wealth to which she's been granted access. And, as she describes it, “ [it is] my job as a white-passing, Latinx person, and a person who doesn’t come from wealth but grew up around wealth and has access to people of wealth to bring these conversations together, and amplify the voices that are looked over by the majority.” By placing certain objects that are familiar to the Latinx community into a gallery, Fontaine is bringing voices and experiences into a space that may not otherwise be familiar with them. She welcomes viewers to share in an experience that is personal to her and others.
Outlets, 2017, mixed media
Outlets is a sculpture that is composed of electrical outlets that have been painted over repeatedly with white paint. The holes that compose the socket seem to gasp for air through the layers of white paint that encompass it. The piece focuses on the visual language of apartment living in Brooklyn. The light switches themselves are representative of how landlords, particularly in immigrant housing and lower income apartments, will just paint over the wall and all of the features on it when someone new moves into the space. Outlets and light switches are meant to be sources of power, but when they are painted over and over again, they become difficult to use; and Outlets poses the question: what does this action of painting over and over really mean for the individuals that have to deal with this on a regular basis?
Fontaine’s definition of ‘item’ is that of multiplicity, and the replication of an object can be found in her cast of the yucca plant. She makes multiples of these and uses them for experiences and her performances. The yucca plant can be found in Latin grocery stores, but tends to be glazed over by people who are not familiar with the root. By casting it, and bringing attention to the shape, texture and use of the yucca, Fontaine allows those who are not familiar to be exposed, and those that are aware of the vegetable to share in the experiences around it. This is similar to her pieces in which galletas de mantequilla are replicated and placed within the gallery. People that are unfamiliar with the cookies, will enter the space, ask about and ponder them. People that are familiar with the Cuban sugar cookies will find a sense of home within a space that is typically made for people familiar with art spaces.
From Por La Mañana which was a part of Part of 2nd Floor Rear 2017: RITUAL
Speaking to Fontaine about objects as subtle signifiers causes me to pause and think about the dichotomous nature of objects. On one hand, they are utilitarian and dealt with every day, thus calling for attention. There is not a moment in which we do not interact with something inanimate. When we walk, our feet tread upon the concrete that was made for us to have a smoother walk. We wear clothes that have been spun from many different types of materials, and may have been passed through different hands. While we eat, we work around wrappings that have been made to protect our food or we are using utensils. We pass things in the grocery store that may not have use for a dish that we are preparing. We engage with them, we utilize them, but we do not give thought to them. Fontaine’s work shows how objects have quiet voices, and if you take the time to listen to them, you can hear many stories.
Next up // June 1st: Artist Spotlight - Julia Arredondo