Artist: Justin Balleza
"Divine Comedy: 3 Realms" Justin Balleza + + + + +
Project Space (613 Allen) On view during events and by appointment only
The show is loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy using the classic work of literature as a launching point. The main themes are Heaven and Hell, with Dante representing humanity in the middle, or Purgatory. My thought is that these places or states of being are constructs of the human mind. For centuries humans have grappled with understanding the forces at work behind the world we can physically see. If there is injustice, pain and suffering in the world there must be a cause. This reason must be a combination of forces inside and outside our mortal control. We make decisions, but they are constrained by factors around us. Our environment, actions and other people’s actions combine to force what we can do for ourselves. Whether supernatural or not, scientifically explainable or not, we are caught in struggles of chaos and order, good and evil. These tendencies, however you might imagine or define them, are innate in the Universe and all life. It is the way of things - without darkness there is no light.
The show is composed of a pair of wall murals that attempt to describe these opposing forces as well as a drawing of Dante in the middle representing humanity caught somewhere between. On the one side chaos or hell is shown in a literal sense as explosions. On the other side of the gallery is order, calm and transcendence seen as a field of Lotus flowers. These visions of heaven and hell are shown through images of nature - the frightening reality of Samsara and the calm realm of Nirvana most of us visit rarely if ever.
Over the past year I have studied naturalistic drawing at the Atelier Charles Cecil Studios in Florence Italy. There we draw figures and portraits from nature using a naturalistic process of drawing called, “sight-size”. The cast drawing of Dante in the show is done using this method of drawing.