Narrative Statement

Assunta Sera

Shortened Narrative Statement for Website

Over the four decades of my painting career, the subject matter of my art has traversed from the personal, to the architectural, to aerial landscapes, to the cosmos.  It’s as though I started with myself and then slowly zoomed out.

One of my earliest, important memories was coming to Grand Central Station in New York as a child.  I was born in Italy, but came to America when I was eight.  I was struck by the grand architecture and the frenetic movement of the people. The painting Informazione depicts an aerial view of the information kiosk at Grand Central Station.  Seen from above, this dark round structure seems to hold and draw the random wandering commuters to its center as if they were planets orbiting their sun.  It’s as if centrifugal force thrusts the tiny commuters from the center, yet simultaneously holds them there by the force of gravity.  Working on the In Transit series, I became more aware of the presence of time, space and movement in my work.
The grand architectural spaces of New York were reminiscent of the churches, cathedrals, palaces and courts of my Italian childhood.  A Renaissance-type respect for depth and space remains in these paintings, such as in Port Authority, where navy, pink and periwinkle planes extrapolate the famous transit space into an almost abstract dream.  In 1996, the Metropolitan Transit Authority commissioned me to paint a poster to celebrate the renovation of Grand Central Station, the original of which still hangs in the Chairman’s Office of the MTA.  The painting shows a little girl in the foreground staring at the celestial star ceiling, in awe of its magnificence.  As though this were a premonition, I too would soon become invested in gazing at the stars.

After many years of painting landscapes from an aerial view, instead of looking down, I began looking up.  Particularly after the opening of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York, where I saw “Passport to the Universe” in 2000, I became fascinated with the stars.
In my series of paintings I call Broken Boundaries, the orb motif appeared for the first time, recalling a landscape, satellite, planet, or telescoped galaxy. As though I were zooming out from the surface of the earth and looking down, clusters of matter affected by gravity began moving in a different way. My paintings broke away from architectural space to abstraction on a grander scale: the cosmos. 

Drawing aided my transition from landscapes to astronomy.  I began using oil sticks to create a series of contours and constellations, mixing shapes of landmasses with glittering starscapes, such as in The Fourth State of Matter (Yellow).
Before I had painted architectural spaces that seemed to expand into abstraction.  Now I was painting the cosmos, trying to contain a concentrated portion in the picture plane.  Similar to the paintings of Grand Central Station, however, these new cosmic paintings also had perpetual motion and interaction, swirling bodies, and an abstract ever-moving pattern that seems to move out beyond the frames.
I began exploring celestial events such as supernovae, black holes and constellations as sites for abstracted landscapes. When a star erupts, it pushes matter everywhere and once it settles attraction begins.  Matter moves through space and time in a cosmic void—attracting, creating, destroying—just as color moves across a canvas during the painting process.

My vision, like the universe, is expanding.  Since the start of my career, only when realism and abstraction coexisted on the cutting edge was I satisfied, maintaining a fine balance between the two modes.  Now, as I explore these abstracted frontiers, I visualize infinite space and endless motion. I am the young girl, finally arrived at the train station, looking up at the constellations.  Painting is my passion, and this investigation into invention is the culmination of my personal vision.