One of the first artworks that visitors will see upon entering the All Florida exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art is Marina Font’s “The Departure,” a work of seeming simplicity and poignant emotional power. It’s part photograph, part installation; the image on the wall shows a person from the waist down standing atop a filing cabinet, clutching a pair of weathered suitcases. The same luggage appears, physically, below the painting, linking art with life.

The ideas that luggage suggests in Font’s art – transience, escape, hopes, dreams – also manifests in “A Sense of Home,” Font’s other selected piece in the All Florida show. This time, about 50 small, framed photographs hang above an open suitcase; fragments of memories of nonspecific times and places, they seem be either spilling from the luggage or plunging into it; either way, it’s a moving testimony to the way we store memories, as fleeting details rather than the big picture, to bring with us wherever life takes us.

Font, who was born in Argentina in 1970 and currently lives and works in Miami Beach, discussed these pieces and some of her other work with Boca Raton, in the second of our ongoing close-ups on All Florida artists.

There’s a certain 3-D effect in seeing a photographic image of something on the wall, and then seeing that same item, physically, in the gallery in front of it. What was your objective in combining photography with installation art like this?

As Marcel Duchamp asked in his “Bicycle Wheel” of 1913, does the inclusion of an object in an artwork somehow change it? The photograph, when presented with the object being photographed, becomes an installation piece. In this case, the object became a photograph and the photograph an object, as one of the components of the installation. I also want to explore the notions of past/present, realism/oneirism, source/representation.

The fact that in “The Departure,” we only see the image from the waist down, the person could be just anybody who has emigrated from one place to an other. Do you want your pieces to talk to an universal experience?

I approach my work in an honest way. My pieces brings to light personal experiences while recognizing their universal significance. I believe in a collective consciousness.

Is there a back story behind the particular suitcases you chose for these pieces?

The objects that I use for my pieces are found objects, things I buy out of flea markets or find at friends’ houses. I love objects that have a history; the passing of time. I have an initial visceral reaction to certain objects that lead me to an idea.  Then I let my instinct guide me, allowing the unexpected happenings in the studio. The suitcases that I use in these particular pieces are surrogates of the ones I used when moving from Argentina.

 

How did you go about photographing, editing and selecting the dozens of small images in “A Sense of Home”?

The images in “A Sense of Home” have many different origins. All came from the idea that “home” cannot be represented by a single image, but a lifetime recollection of memories in our minds – from images of the landscape, vintage photographs, abstractions, scanned objects to images that I stage in the studio. My intention is to create a composite of memories from different periods of time and place, and the connection and/or the disconnection among them. My intention is to allow the viewers to make their own interpretation, creating their own visual metaphors.

 

Some of your previous series, like “Womanhood” (pictured) and “The Anatomy of Sins”, seem like they could be controversial in their frankness—but it also seems like all of that controversy is in the eye of the beholder. They’re just underwear and anatomical diagrams, after all. Nevertheless, has the desire to shock, surprise, or push any buttons ever been a motivating factor in your work?

No. “The Evolution of The Woman Kind” is a narrative, a timeline of a woman’s life through her underwear. It was based on the history of three generations of women living under a same roof and sharing the everyday chores of line drying.

“The Anatomy of Sins” is quite different. It is a piece that I created as a reaction of my conflicts with religion and my catholic upbringing, where everybody is born a “sinner.”

It is a study of those sins and their placement in the human body. The anatomical diagrams also represent vulnerability; we are all humans after all!

…As you just said, it’s all in the eye of the beholder…