For her solo exhibition Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints at Chinatown Soup, artist Ventiko has transformed the gallery into a sacred space composed of three main parts – The Chapel, The Reliquary, and The Altar. The presentation centers on 100 Saints, each one represented as a Saint Candle, which sits on protruding shelves lining The Chapel walls. Not just any Saints, they are the friends and special people in Ventiko’s personal universe who have changed her life for the better. At a time when the political landscape of the world is triggering divides among people, this exhibition promotes a sense of healing through togetherness and community.
Ventiko is not so much the creator here, but the facilitator. Amazingly, she photographed all 100 Saints in a one-month period. This seemingly impossible feat was successful to the artist’s organic approach to the collaboration process. She let each Saint have complete agency over their representation. They chose their name, styled the costume and environment for their portrait, and wrote an accompanying autobiography. Continuing the idea of collaborative flow, each Saint pre-purchased their candle by contributing to the project monetarily or with specialized services. Ventiko said, “I didn’t want this to be about me at all. You won’t find a trace of me in this exhibition. It’s all about these amazing people in my life. This is a love letter to them.”
Similar to religious art, each candle shows the Patron Saint’s image with their name below. You could spend hours getting to know each of them, thinking about how their portrait and name reflect their identity and background. The photographs range from beautiful, serious, and theatrical to humorous, playful, and raw. For example, Santa Daniella: Patron Saint of #alltheemotions captures the Saint with a frenzied look on her face as a blow-up flamingo and shark encroach on her personal space. Santo Randy: Patron Saint of Rock N Roll is shirtless save for a white feather jacket (think 70s Rod Stewart). Santo Connor: Patron Saint of the Business Lunch shows the Saint in a suit holding a box of Triscuits. Santa Hye Young: Patron Saint of Everything Is Going to be OK portrays the Saint in the exact opposite state of what her name suggests. With eyes clenched shut and a contorted, pursed mouth, she looks anything but OK.
Situated at the back of The Chapel, The Reliquary takes the form of salvaged, ornate frames containing objects that accompanied the Saints in their portraits. Precious relics include an antique camera, a chalice filled with gold coins, a weathered copy of The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, tarot cards, and a paper crown bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again.” Hanging on the opposite wall, The Alter presents a group portrait of selected Saints on 12 x 7 feet light boxes. While these holy individuals are elevated, they are also genuine, making it easy to identify and take comfort in them. All 100 Saints’ portraits and autobiographies were collected and bound into a book, which is available for purchase.
Watching people being mistreated because of their ethnic and religious backgrounds, Ventiko saw her art as an opportunity to take action. She draws from the personal to create a project that offers brave insight on how humans can come together to restore a more compassionate and connected world.
Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints is on view at Chinatown Soup through April 2, 2017.
Events coming up:
SATURDAY, APRIL 1, 7-11 p.m. Nobody’s Fool
An evening of Feminist Performances featuring:
Santa Florence, Santo Luke, Santa Kylah Santa Madeline, Santa May, and more TBA
SUNDAY APRIL 2nd 12-6 p.m.
As all things must end, we say goodbye to Phos HIlaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints
At 3 p.m. Santo Bjorn, Patron Saint of Concentration aka countertenor Juencheng Chen will serenade us with a surprise performance from another saint.