Video Work | Photo/Installations | Documentary Projects

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Inland Valley Voice, October 31, 2002
Video sculptures capture artist’s body of work

By Pam Noles

Denise Marika says it is important for her to experience the moment of her creations to truly convey the feelings.

When sculptor Denise Marika graduated from Pomona College in 1977, she began exploring ways to use video as a tool of fine art, searching for a way to give her creations all the dimensions of life.

“We speak, we have action, we have motion, but also have physical presence in space,” she said. “I want my work to have all those aspects.”

Marika has built a career that includes installations at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Bellevue Arts Museum and commissions from the New York City Arts Commission, to name a few. Now she returns to her alma mater with a showcase of works ranging from 17 to 30 minutes.

“Body Projections: New Video Sculpture by Denise Marika,” runs Sunday trugh Dec. 15 at the Pomona College Museum of Art in Claremont. The opening reception will be 3-5 p.m. Saturday.

Though Marika uses high technology in her work –she made full three-dimensional scans of her body and has upgraded from tapes and” clunky monitors” to DVD’s and computers­­– the “bells and whistles” of technology are not her focus.

“I’m more interested in having the technology disappear and using it to bring out all of these feelings we have towards each other,” she said. “My work has concerns about our relationships, the individual tensions between people, power struggles between people. The social structures of our world vs. the individual.”

Often Marika uses herself as the object in her work, placing her nude body at the core of the presentation and putting herself through scenarios that are far from comfortable. For one piece, she crouches in the center of a dark disk while tiny statues of herself in the fetal position are hurled at her, braking against her skin. For another, she crawls back and forth in a tiny space, trapped.

In yet another, she desperately covers a wall with thick red clay, only to claw it away and begin again, all the while her body becoming exhausted and marked by the substance.

Marika said she needs to put herself in those situations rather than use a model because experiencing the moment is the only way she can truly convey the feeling of the experience.

‘I wouldn’t have learned how to focus the moment if I hadn’t experienced the work,” she said. “It comes out of the tradition of sculpture, video and performance art.”

Her use of the nude figure is also a part of traditional a sculpture, showcasing the body as form, she said.

“To me, that’s the classical side of what I do. To be able to take the figure – I speak of it as her rather then me – it becomes a universal figure,” she said. “People can relate to a vulnerable body as well as the aesthetic beauty. If you clothe it, it becomes culturally specific. Oh that’s businessperson. Oh, that’s an American.”

Marika said her approach breaks through those boundaries. “The reaction to my work, people carry it with them," she said. "Peaple eare able to recognize themselves trough these distilled moments. We’ve all hurt ourselves. We’ve all hurt each other.”