(Translated from Italian)
"Death," Cioran said, "is what life has invented to be more secure and solid." And the bitter reflection of the Romanian philosopher can only agree. Yet man fears death, as he fears any experience he has not had: philosophy and theology have been challenged with shots of reflection for the sole purpose of removing inevitably an ancestral fear from man and making acceptable the deal signed at the time of coming in the world. For others, as the undersigned, death is a crisis in God's works, a defect in the creation of life that we can not cure. Only those who have faith, it is said, do not fear and in religion find an answer to its finitude and vulnerability. So death is a subject that concerns the living. And it is so deeply concerned that its presence in the cemeteries where, in particular in the so-called monumental, guarding every burial, there is a sculpture of statues so strong a strong symbolic value and of certain human facets; are alives and kicking.
Much of the work of the Italian-American photographer AnnMarie Tornabene revolves around the sense of death or, better, in the study of her artistic representation. Through the potential of the digital medium, AnnMarie Tornabene blends – so to speak - the living universe in the context of the symbolism of the passing in the afterlife. In the "Divine Journey" series, feminine subjects whose grace is masterfully intertwined with the cementitious features of celestial creatures (see the beautiful photograph in which the subjects converse with statues of a magnificent flattened relief) alternate with more strictly one-sided visions and in which is seen by the photographer's passion for the pre-Raphaelian revivalist taste. In the photographs we see that Rossetti speaks at a distance with the master of arcane symbolism, the poet and painter William Blake, in an attempt to find an agreement between the sacred and the profane, who deals with mediation between substance and spirit to conclude here and now, while Gustave Dorè takes notes for his engravings.
But there’s not only the citationist taste. There is more. There is, for example, a private investigation - the theme of death with the loss of AnnMarie Tornabene's father - about the effects and the meaning of absence, with safety an experience lived up through the end the by those who had the misfortune of to see a relative disappear. "The Divine Journey" is a “journey into divine", a secular and liberating journey among pains. And the theme of pain, and the attempt to overturn it, continues in "Ode to Pictorialists". Here the metaphor of the passing of Time, which leads to the awareness of an inevitable consumption of bodily matter, emerges through the symbology of the instruments of measurement, the eternal ticking of watches that survive, metered into elements of Christian rituals to entrust a power salvific. And all this, as the title suggests, is a great tribute to a photograph style when it has not yet beed freed from the noblest painting.
In AnnMarie Tornabene's work there is consistency. Themes and subjects are woven together into the same theme; and do not deviate from the task of telling a dream universe or describing the terms of an esoteric world that, as far as we can tell ourselves, we are absorbed in the porosity of our formation; and all kept together by the silent presence of a medium known to us through the History of Art: the angels. We do not know anything about them and this may have allowed us to represent them as best we wanted. "Angels" is another series of AnnMarie Tornabene, perhaps the most plastic and tormented, though it is difficult to tell the torment of those we do not know. Yet"Angels" is a series in which we see celestial creatures being letting themselves recognize in pain; humanizing them. Their figures are sorrowful, near the torment that devastates their sleep and the days. They, like AnnMarie Tornabene seem to say, are like us; they suffer like us, they weep like us; they work as we do. Maybe we are they. The circle closes.
The journey around the theme of death is complemented by every interpreter, and we only have to consolidate some conclusions, though AnnMarie Tornabene will share how ephemeral is every attempt to "explain" death. Yet her effort is more than praiseworthy, her work is surrounded by a painful and delicate poetics like her images that evoke suggestions from the depths. Nothing is overlooked, form and substance dialogue with the pursuit of meaning, a sense that pleases the eyes but does not neglect the thought.
- Giuseppe Cicozzetti - Scriptphotography
AnnMarie was always a favorite winner in the B J Spoke Gallery's competitions and shows. Her work was highly original and well produced. We also liked that she was an early advocate for liking one's self image and supporting women in that idea. Her body of work is unforgettable.
Thanks - A-M T
- Marilyn Levy - gallery director and manager B.J. Spoke Gallery, New York
In AnnMarie Tornabene’s series of photographs, called Not Wonderland, the artist drapes her ample form across choice scenes of contemporary urban decay. In these soft-focus, black-and-white images, Tornabene’s Pre-Raphaelite alter ego and charming Hallmark card aesthetics are beamed to The Big City, where the artist swoons and suffers like a silent screen heroine, lost on an urban sidewalk or wilting beside a gleaming subway car.
In one of her most evocative images titled Hand in Hand, Tornabene and a would-be woodland creature have been left to their own devices on what appears to be abandoned train tracks, with a dumpster and graffiti-painted fence framing the pair on either side. Hiding under the artist’s flowing tresses, flower headdress and layered gown are sensible yet incongruous sandals, no doubt to protect here feet from the rocky, garbage-strewn ground. The male creature, in a knotted skirt and mask, wears his own flip flops. For no apparent reason a white plastic bag hangs from the side of the dumpster. Despite these actual, accidental details ( or is it partly because of them? ) the image is memorable.
In this picture and others nagging traces of the twenty-first century awkwardly couple with Tornabene’s own signature romantic trappings. The resulting images are both endearingly eccentric and surprisingly ethereal. This may not be Wonderland, but these pictures, which totter back and forth between the real world and the artist’s imagined one, are a wonder.
- Carmen Varricchio, freelance fashion writer Village Voice
I was at first shocked and then intrigued by AnnMarie Tornabene’s revealing self-portraits, all of which show the artist nude outdoors. But these are not ordinary nudes, for Ms. Tornabene’s body is so ample that sitting in water or reclining in nature, she looks like a soft sculpture.
A statement in the exhibition brochure gives some clue to her thinking. She speaks of the images as responding to issues she has experienced in her life: abuse directed at her obesity, problems with sex and relationships, and anxieties about her self-image in a society that rewards and celebrates one body type to the exclusion and ridicule of others. She bravely asks us to look, and look again, to find beauty in her size. And she succeeds. The photographs by Ms. Tornabene, who lives in Queens, are interesting because they challenge us to think about something familiar in a radically different way.
- Benjamin Genocchio - NY Times
To view a photograph by AnnMarie Tornabene is akin to studying a chapter in art history. One senses immediately the Old Master pedigree behind many of her images. What is it about AnnMarie's photographs that set them apart from her art historical sources? The first and most obvious is the medium itself, photography, a thoroughly modern art form, though, that is not meant to over-simplify the point. Tornabene's aesthetic is anything but modern; the photographs are statements against contemporary and digital art, hence their rich art historical lineage.
- Dr. Stephen Lamia, PhD - gallery director, The Anthony Girodano Gallery, New York
Edward Weston once said of a contemporary that "He doesn't have to try to be different -- he *is* different." That's what I see in her work as opposed to most -- she is not trying to be different, she is trying to say something important to her and the result is that her work *is* different.
- Ron Hammond, photographer
AnnMarie Tornabene examines the specifics of her own face and form as the terrain of conflict. Her series of self-portraits seeks to resolve confusion through revelation, although hesitancy and ambivalence are evident in these touching images.
- Helen Harrison - NY Times