As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and nobody embodies that sentiment more than sculptor and filmmaker Lydia Ricci. From a pile of junk and everyday rubbish that has accumulated over the past 30 years, Ricci crafts imperfectly perfect recreations of everyday moments and objects.
“I’ve been collecting my family’s scraps for over 25 years,” the artist wrote in a self-confessed essay on her website, “but I have to admit I steal some, too.” Among those stolen scraps is a reusable BINGO card from a family celebration in the local elementary school (“Fantastic…with red plastic windows covering the numbers”), dusty electrical tape (“nobody needs three rolls”), a lightbulb box from a neighbor’s garage (“the lightbulb probably didn’t even work”), and a very worn one Bible from a (“not so fancy”) hotel room. If you leave Ricci alone in a waiting room, she’ll consider your paperclips fair game.
“I cherish a 1984 utility bill the way others would covet their family jewels,” Ricci told Hyperallergic via email.
The result is memorabilia that don’t so much mirror their real-life counterparts as evoke a sense of life as remembered – a little shaky, a little erratic, very detailed in some places but very abstract in others. Ricci poses and photographs her tiny sculptures in tableaux in which the objects are often disproportionate, giving them the surreal quality of dreams and memories. A tiny aquarium is a tight quarter for a peeled cocktail shrimp. A dilapidated miniature couch struggles to hide life-size keys, Cheerios and hairballs. A tiny little dishwasher is slowly buried in a drift of life-sized flakes of detergent.
As if creating these multi-media scenes wasn’t enough, Ricci then translates them into multimedia productions, adding individual snippets of text that appear to set the images to music or serve as narration for short films. Your three minute film I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (2021) made the rounds last spring at film festivals in Arizona and Washington, DC, and tells the story of a developing relationship through its everyday dramas: waiting for a takeaway, the politics of sharing toothbrushes, asking (or lack thereof) for help reaching a high shelf, the need (or not) for company on a shopping spree.
“There is absolutely nothing precious or precise about what I build,” Ricci added. “The sculptures are chaotic and imperfect, just like our memories.” And yet the artist has a knack for erecting small monuments to big experiences that are as subjective as the memories they represent.
Ricci was part of a four-person show that ran through April at the James Oliver Gallery in Philadelphia, with another show scheduled to open Aug. 23 at the Kohler Art Museum in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She also hopes to publish a book titled with her pictures do not forget me. As the name suggests, Ricci’s bond with Detritus is not a question of waste or reuse, but of his ability to transmute memories – fragmented and conditioned as they may be.