The miniature monuments of an artist with great memories

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As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and no one embodies that sentiment more vividly than the sculptor and the filmmaker. Lydia Ricci. From a pile of daily scraps and detritus accumulated over the past 30 years, Ricci crafts imperfectly perfect replicas of everyday moments and objects.

“I have been collecting my family’s scraps for over 25 years,” the artist wrote in a confessional essay on its website, “but I have to admit I steal some too.” These stolen remains include a reusable BINGO card from a family reunion at the local elementary school (“fancy…with red plastic windows that cover the numbers”), dusty electrical tape (“no one has need three rolls”), a box of light bulbs from a garage neighbor (“the light bulb probably didn’t even work”), and a very well-worn bible from a hotel room (“not so fancy” ). If you leave Ricci alone in a waiting room, she considers your paperclips fair game.

“I treasure a 1984 electric bill the way others would covet their heirlooms,” Ricci told Hyperallergic via email.

Lydia Ricci, “I Can Still Fix It” (2019), recycled materials, 1 3/4 x 1 1/4 x 1/4 inches

The results are memories that don’t so much reflect their real-world counterparts as deeply evoke a sense of life as it’s remembered – a little wonky, a little jagged, very detailed in places but very abstract in d ‘others. Ricci poses and photographs his tiny sculptures in tableaux where the objects are often disproportionate, giving them the surreal quality of dream and memory. A small aquarium makes tight quarters for a shelled cocktail shrimp. A ramshackle miniature sofa struggles to hide life-size keys, Cheerios and furballs. A tiny dishwasher is slowly buried under a trail of life-size detergent flakes.

As if creating these scenes from multiple media wasn’t enough, Ricci then recasts them into multimedia productions, adding single-sentence snippets of text that seem to express the images or serve as the narration for short films. His three-minute film I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (2021) made the rounds last spring at film festivals in Arizona and washington d.c.and tells the story of an evolving relationship through its daily dramas: waiting for a food stand, the politics of toothbrush sharing, asking (or not asking) for help to reach a high level, the need (or not) for companionship on a grocery run.

Lydia Ricci, “Do You Even Look?” (2021), scrap materials. TV: 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 2 inches; VCR: 3 x 2 x 1 inches; 5 x 1 1/2 x 3 inch exercise bike

“There is absolutely nothing precious or precise in what I build,” added Ricci. “Carvings are messy and imperfect, just like our memories.” And yet, the artist has a knack for constructing small monuments to great experiences, as subjective as the memories they represent.

Ricci was part of a four-person show that took place in April at James Oliver Gallery in Philadelphia, with another show scheduled for August 23 at Kohler Art Museum in Sheboygan, Wis. She also hopes to publish a book of her images, titled Do not forget me. As his name suggests, Ricci’s attachment to detritus isn’t about waste or reuse, but about his power to transmute memory – no matter how messy and conditional.

Lydia Ricci, “I Shouldn’t Have Been Trying So Hard” (2020), scrap materials, 4 x 8 x 2 inches
Lydia Ricci, “Seems like a lot to take care of” (2021), scrap materials, 3 x 2 x 1 inch stroller, 3 x 2 1 1/2 inch aquarium
Lydia Ricci, “I’m Not Sure They Need to Do This Now” (2020), Scrap Materials, 3 x 5 x 1 1/2 inches
Lydia Ricci, “I thought it would be a lot more fun” (2021), scrap materials, 3 x 3 1/2 x 2 inches
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