Member Profile-Joseph Cavalieri:
Issues of Sexual Identity Rendered En Rogue
This was my first opportunity to contribute to GASnews and I was so excited to approach Cavalieri as my topical focus. Graphically, he and I speak through a similar visual language when it comes to using iconography of mainstream Popular Culture as metaphorical vehicle to approach issues of personal concern and meaning. Cavalieri is a busy, busy guy…traveling all over the world teaching and exhibiting to a very, very exhaustive degree. Although our contact was only through email, it was a real privilege to engage with someone whose work and professionalism I have admired for several years.
Below is the essay I wanted to be published. However, it far exceeds my allotted word limit for the newsletter…and its from here that I spent a considerable amount of time slicing, cropping, sculpting, and rewording to hit my window. If you’ve read what was actually printed in the Summer 2014 issue, you’ll notice how different the piece reads not only in length, but also in content. By posting the piece down below in its original form, I hope you’ll find it as a supplement to what you’ll read in GASnews…providing additional value in Joseph Cavalieri’s work through a broader scope of my original perspective and analysis.
Admirable are the artists who pursue sophisticated subject matter through seemingly lowbrow modes of approach. Even more so when their work withholds the ability to far exceed our expectations for content upon further consideration. Joseph Cavalieri’s stained glass panels are undoubtedly within this vein.
Cavalieri’s work creates high-wire scenarios, walking along a very tight line between high taste and low; comedy and substance; visual brashness and emotional sincerity. He pulls from historical glass practices, integrates glass and graphics within a sculptural context, and finds many interesting metaphors within the iconic characters of our collective consciousness - whether real or fictitious. But underneath the work’s humor, its bombastic presence, and its merging of the sacred and the secular is where I see meaning reside. Pun intended, there’s certainly more to Cavalieri’s ‘pictures’ than what meets the eye…
For Cavalieri, the characters of ‘The Simpsons’ are identifiably American icons and symbolize the essence of our national socio-economic decline. For me, I think of ‘The Simpsons’ as a symbol of controversy, remembering the beginning of its run on television wrought with criticism for the coarse nature of its characters and its contrasting viewpoint to conservative American family values. In fact, this is where I see a tie that conceptually binds all of Cavalieri’s panels beyond this well-recognized body of work: ideas of challenging societal standards of what’s considered normal, acceptable, ethical, or conventional seem to be the major impetus. Yet, it’s the graceful quality in which Cavalieri slaps convention in the face that I find so fulfilling…especially when engaging issues of sexuality.
Crumb’s work has earned him a reputation for confronting ideas of conformity and normalcy; infiltrating the underground comic-reading public of the late 60s, 70s, and 80s with content laden with sex, raunch, and vulgarity to speak towards a disgust with American culture and conservative values of the time. Although it’s hosting Crumb’s original imagery, ‘MMGLUP’ in particular suggests a renegade tone of sexuality and humor that very well segues into Cavalieri’s recent work; panels that speak towards a less crass - yet equally poignant - conversation involving topics of gay culture, gender, and masculinity.
In these few examples, Cavalieri’s work is offering tongue-in-cheek cultural commentary. However, just below the spectacle of its Pop-centric references and colorfully illuminated iconography is one pertinent realization that grabbed my attention; that through the stained glass window motif Cavalieri sheds light upon very real, very serious, and very profound opportunities for his viewer to engage relevant issues regarding the self and sexual culture. Beyond what we may initially think, the handling of glass, the stained glass practice, and sexuality itself all have shared elements of commonality…
…they all include a profound integration of touch, they all allow for connectivity, and they all give way to the idea of personal inspection; perhaps even further facilitate cultural change.