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“When I was a child I used to play on swings and look at blocks and imagine I was miles above the ground,” Northampton artist Sally Curcio recalls.
She is recounting the inspirations for her “Bubbles”—miniature worlds, a foot square, sealed under clear plastic domes—which are on view at Harmon Gallery, 95 Commercial St., in Wellfleet through November. They’re idyllic landscapes made from foam and flocking bejeweled with beads that become glittering trees and delicate futuristic towers.
Among the first “Bubbles” she began constructing in 2007 were “Sherwood Forest,” which shows hills of green bead trees winding around a blue lake, and “North Pole,” with foam hills covered with white flocking (“it’s velvety looking”) and studded with green bead trees.
“I wanted it to be a made-up place,” the 41-year-old says. “Maybe that stressed the childhood part a bit, the imagination of a place.”
Inspirations included her “huge snow globe collection.” She says, “They’re these contained little worlds that I just love. And they’re nostalgic. They bring you back to a place. My ‘Bubbles’ don’t have the water, but I love the water in it and the glitter. They’re something you can hold in your hand too. … They seem very magical.”
Another spark was “my boyfriend and I were traveling and we went to one of these Thomas Kinkade galleries. I always thought his work was kind of cheesy.”
But for some reason this time she connected with his paintings of cottages nestled safe and snug in bountiful valleys and forests and small towns. Not that she didn’t still find them cheesy, but that she was in tune with making “these idyllic, fake, rainbow, made-up places. I kind of opened up to what he was doing for people.”
Kinkade was providing oases for people, places they could mentally escape to away from the difficulties of life. Curcio’s “Bubbles,” she says, “they can be an escape too. In ‘Lost,’ I have two islands from a distance. The idea of escaping is definitely in that for me.”
Current events were on Curcio’s mind. “When I started the work, Obama hadn’t won the election. I was listening to the news a lot,” she says. Terrorism, wars, torture, Hurricane Katrina, economic recession, global warming. “Maybe they’re even more optimistic because of where we’re at. I think there’s still hope for the world, but it’s really depressing too.”
Her “Orbit City” (2008) was inspired by “The Jetsons” and it’s “nostalgic idea of the future.” Gleaming, candy-colored satellites hover over pristine white hills. “It has an old time feel of what we could imagine what the future could be like,” she says. “I don’t think we imagine the future like this anymore.”
She moved onto depictions of New York (“Homage to Jackie O (Central Park)”), Miami Beach, and the Connecticut River winding through the Holyoke Range in central Massachusetts (“Happy Valley”).
“I wanted it to feel like that experience of being in Miami,” she says. “Having it being removed and manageable and contained. You can have a part of it with you. It’s tangible. … At the same time it’s the totally idyllic version of that. I guess it’s just a good place to be.”
“This is perfection in here,” Curcio says of her “Bubble” worlds. But “it has that fragility to it. It could be popped.”
This program aired on August 2, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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