Under the Rug: Gina Stucchio
By Nuveen Barwari
It honestly just feels like this endless loop of looking at the paintings while inside of the paintings. As I peek through these different frames and portals of scenes taking place in domestic spaces, I feel a sense of nostalgia, absence, and the feeling you would get as a kid when you’re home alone and you spill cereal on the carpet. As I was staring at these paintings BAM! I felt something soft on the bottom of my shoes, it was this blue carpet that the artist made that happens to be a common motif in the paintings. A collage is happening on the floor, shapes are arising from the blue carpet and carpet insulation. The paintings are geometric but there is something soft about them too, maybe it’s the luscious color palette? The pinks, blues, and yellow specs in the exposed carpet insulation? The hot pink gum on the wall looks like it is still wet.
How does one navigate the space between painting and installation? Why is this even a question? The need for the object on the wall to occupy more space… come off the wall, the ceiling, and the floor. What if I make the argument that placing a painting on the wall is an installation in itself? And the way our bodies dance around each painting is a performance. the way we leap back and forth when viewing paintings… our eyes scanning the room to see how all the colors, shapes, and materials live with each other. Anyways, Stucchio does a superb job of exhibiting that she can seamlessly integrate the work into any gallery’s architecture. Placing a painting of a window next to an actual window and inviting us to witness where these two worlds collide.
What about the space between each piece? How high or how low each painting sits on the wall? Or what about how low one must kneel to view a work of art? Or how high we raise ourselves on our tippy toes to view the found objects on display in the windowsill of the gallery? These are the kind of questions that come up for me when I go to Gina Stucchio’s exhibitions. Her exhibitions feel less like exhibitions and more like an activity, meaning you must prepare yourself for the act of looking, listening, and finding.
Nuveen Barwari: According to my “good friend” Merriam Webster the definition of ‘sweep (something) under the rug’, means to hide (something that is illegal, embarrassing, or wrong). What are some parts of your practice that you try to sweep under the rug? Not because it is “illegal, embarrassing, or wrong” but because you just tend to sweep it away … for example, sometimes text finds a way in my practice, and sometimes I try to keep it away… I intentionally keep the use of text out of my work (sometimes). Why? I don’t know, I find that by keeping that out of the work, it forces me to create my own language through materials, color… ect. u know? Wbu?
Gina Stucchio: I think this is a two-part answer. There is stuff that I keep from the audience but the other side to that is what I keep from myself. Then I believe there is actually a third layer to that that I don’t have a say in. With an audience, I find that I keep my most cherished memories out of the work because I can’t let people see those. They are too close to me and mean too much for other people to become voyeurs to. With the part that I actively take part in with myself I think is planning. I never really plan anything out despite everyone telling me i should lol i get more out of my practice when i can have a thought and just start to think on it through material rather than making a sketch, planning color or anything related to that. If I absolutely need to in order to figure something out, I’ll sketch it out real quick but that part of a practice is something I have always chosen to not really address. The third part, the part that i don’t have any choice in revolves around decision making. There’s a lot of decisions that are made in my work that don’t really make sense to me. It’s based more on intuition and letting the universe act on me in ways that I don’t understand and don’t want to understand. So as far as ‘sweeping under the rug’ goes, I definitely don’t question that part or allow myself to dive into understanding it, it’s just part of the studio and I think understanding it would be more scary than helpful.
NB: Can you give me a brief introduction about yourself and your work? What’s your favorite snack?
GS: I’m gina, some of my family members say i was named after someone named eugene. My favorite snack is cheese or popcorn… or both together. I grew up in central florida and stayed there until i was 27. I liked Florida. For the majority of my fundamental adolescent years, until I was 16 I lived in one house. That house is where I get most of my work from. There was a lot of imagination involved in just living there. I needed it to survive, and that way of coping has remained with me. Sometimes it involved locking memories into a space in my mind and sometimes it was through the friends that my mind made for me. Either way, most of my work revolves around creating a physical version of the thing I am trying to put away. By creating a physical reincarnation of the thing i am processing, i begin the process of a self-inflicted exorcism in order to extract things from me. And in the installation process I recreate the place in my mind for others to experience.
NB: If I was in your studio right now, what would I see? Be honest. Works in progress? Tell me about what you are working on currently? (you can talk about the show u have up now and the process of that)
GS: If you walked into my studio, you would see a big mess. My studio is in a constant state of complete chaos! But it helps me in my practice to be surrounded by too many things. You’ll also find mirrors and reflective surfaces that I use to maintain my own physical presence in that space. They give me the chance to ground myself in the physical rather than suspending in the imaginary for too long. There’s a lot of found objects, a lot of fabric, a lot of tools and a lot of notes to myself. There’s also many works in progress at a time. I work best when I have multiple pieces going at different speeds. I tend to have one piece that takes a lot of focus and physical labor that takes months to finish while simultaneously working on pieces that I can sometimes finish in a matter of hours or minutes. The time frame changes but having one piece going allows for another form of grounding, like the mirrors, to keep my mind focused on processing the thought fully through.
NB: What is the inspiration behind the title of your show “my inner survey says no”? at Relay Ridge in Knoxville, TN?
GS: Almost all of my titles for things come from my writing. In this case, I was writing in the studio, quickly writing on a scrap piece of paper, an urgent need to process something. And that line came out from my hands and I thought that it encompassed everything I was trying to decipher. My inner survey, the survey I took within my body, couldn’t agree with the answer I proposed at the beginning of the writing.. And I just thought… yeah, okay.
NB: In “my inner survey say no” , you navigate the space between painting and immersive installation very well, in the sense that you have paintings in the show that depict scenes of domestic spaces while at the same time as the viewer we feel like we are inside of those spaces looking at paintings inside of those spaces…. And it goes on and on. Tell us more about how you navigate space inside of the paintings as well as these environments in which your paintings sit in… or just gallery spaces in general sense
GS: The scenes I have been painting are views of what I see in the space in my head. Most are based in a memory of sorts and some are conceived from an imaginary space that only exists in between my ears. The images that appear on the canvas tend to be the more important part of that scene for me at the time of the painting. So more or less it just is a zoomed in view of whatever I found important for me. In an exhibition space, I have to spend some time there if I’m going to do an installation. I need to feel the space and communicate with it through physical touch to feel what seems right for the pieces. Because my mind is connecting one physical space to another I need to feel that they seem to belong in the space otherwise I just don’t put the piece in. I’d rather have an entire show and only have one piece in it than have pieces in the exhibition that don’t feel like they are connecting with each other. Based on the conversations the pieces have with each other I’ll understand if they belong near one another. I also hang everything according to my own height and interpretation of the space rather than following any ‘rule’ on hanging work.
NB: Tell me more about your color palette … not just in the paintings but other materials, the carpet, carpet padding, pink gum on the wall?
GS: All the colors I use are from my childhood. Because my work revolves around that one specific house and in the early 90’s it pulls from the aesthetic that existed around me. The house I grew up in had turquoise carpet throughout, there were mirrors everywhere, there were light peach leather couches and plaster stands holding up glass table tops. We had a tanning bed in our laundry room because my mother used it to tan for her body building competitions. I think that’s where some of the light sources come from in mywork. This strangely alien fluorescent pink/purple light that shined out of one room of the house. The place in my mind is unfinished and some parts are broken down. I show that by making the floor an unfinished carpet flooring my installations. But also use the specific carpet foam that goes along with my aesthetic color choices.
NB: Films let’s talk about films.. We recently had a conversation about the film Titane. You said that there was something horrifying yet sweet and tender… How can we connect that to your work?
GS: Yes, Titane was very good. Im listening to the soundtrack now actually. I think the only way I can answer this is to say that there’s a lot of horrifying things that came from that house and I found sweetness in small moments around it. I try to have a bit of both in my installations, for example, the sculpture of my childhood stuffed animal and then all my baby teeth sitting in a row on the windowsill. I want there to always be the question of what is around the corner? I try to maintain a game with my audience where they aren’t sure if they saw everything. I want them to wonder if they were supposed to look through that hole, or if they were supposed to touch that, and at times have the potential for them to feel like a voyeur. It could be fun or uneasy depending on your own experience.
NB: Do you have a writing practice and how do you negotiate it in exhibition spaces… through titles? I have been trying to figure it out in my own practice… I have no problem writing pages and pages about my practice but trying to condense it into 250 words has to be the hardest thing for me, not because I can’t … I just don’t want to .. ya know?
GS: I have writing practice now! For the longest time that was the thing I swept under the rug lol but, in the last two years I have flipped a switch. As i said earlier, almost all of my titles for things now come from my writing which is one good thing to come of it. I completely understand not wanting to pair your practice down to 250 words. I fought against it and always will. I think it works sometimes but it doesn’t work for some to write that succinctly. I found that when I write it is mostly a train of thought. I never fix typos in my writing because I think there’s something to that too. You can sense the urgency of something typed or written too quickly for hands or computers to work properly. I write now in such a way that I feel my writing is doing the same thing as my visual art practice. It’s accomplishing the same things for me. Which Is difficult because I sometimes make less work when I’m writing a lot. The only balance for me comes from what I’m figuring out, not the kind of work I’m creating anymore. And when I do have a short 250 word statement it isn’t straightforward about what it’s supposed to be. It’s a piece of writing that says and conveys all I think I need to about a show and nothing more, which reads more like fiction or a diary entry than anything else.
Gina Stucchio is a Florida native who is currently based out of Knoxville Tennessee. She earned her BFA from the University of South Florida and her MFA from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Stucchio is a multimedia artist who explores the existence of portals both physical and mental in order to deal with stressors of just being human. She has two amazing cats, Myra and Vinny, and will always be down for popcorn or a lounge in the sun.
Nuveen Barwari is a visual artist who employs collage to reflect on the fragmented state of diasporic living and membership in a stateless community. Barwari’s expansive practice includes installations; writing; performances; collecting and repurposing artifacts from her community such as photos, rugs, fabrics, and Kurdish dresses; and an online shop that supplies apparel and art internationally. Barwari received a Bachelor of Science in Studio Art from Tennessee State University in 2019 and a Master’s in Fine Arts in 2022 at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
(Photos sent by artist)