art: Review of 'PEEL,' Find your own
meaning in artist’s divergent works
by Teresa Annas
The Virginian-Pilot 03/05/09

NORFOLK, VA – TESS LIVOLSI AMORUSO, a Virginia Beach photographer, has undergone a major shift in her work. ArtGallery in Ghent is showing both the earlier and the latest work, and lets you ponder what connection there might be between the two directions.

She also devised an installation that features a nearly naked model, who created a happening by showing up dressed like that at the opening in early February.

But first, the prints: LiVolsi Amoruso’s images from 2001 to 2006 are black-and-white multiple exposures that are romantic and perhaps pantheistic in feeling. In many cases, she has paired a photo of herself or one of her two daughters with a nature scene.

One such photomontage features the artist posed as a dreamy, celestial creature in “Angel of MoMA” of 2006. Her face is superimposed over or merged with, a photo taken inside the Museum of Modern Art. For a lot of creative people, art provides a kind of spiritual sustenance that’s not often talked about, but is nonetheless there.

LiVolsi Amoruso is a spiritual seeker, known to delve into ideas found in Eastern religions and philosophies. That mind-set is partly behind her current approach.

Her new subject is mostly decrepit, industrial surfaces. She comes in close with her digital camera on metal walls and trains and trash bins, to capture layers of peeling paint, random markings, graffiti and rust. If her earlier work felt feminine and soft, these new color images seem masculine and bold. They are mostly straightforward images, though a few are photomontages with a human figure. But even here, the figure is a very large, bald man, far from the goddess-like ladies that came before.

In photographing what she calls “industrial relics,” she draws our attention to and elevates them. Her intention was to look at the world, even the ugly parts, and accept it as it is, without judgment. That is her vision of “being here now” as expressed in these prints.

That’s also the general idea behind an installation she created, which entails a slide projector sending images onto the wall, and partly onto a tilted mirror that, in turn, projects a sliver of each slide on the opposite wall.

The image sequence shows a large, male figure, wearing a semitransparent suit (which the model also wore to the opening reception), walking a labyrinth, strolling the beach and roaming an industrial wasteland. The sequence has no story line and is broken up with questions: What do you see? What do you hear?

Everything about the piece – the Hershey’s kisses, the fragrance of essential oils emanating from a gleeful little Buddha figurine – is intended to lure the viewer into the present, into their senses. The final question is, “Who is aware of the thinker?” Because if you can let go of ego long enough to observe yourself thinking, you can discover that you are not the thinker, but something else, peeled back from that.