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On Wednesday February 21st, The Untitled Space hosted a cocktail reception and artist talk for Indira Cesarine’s “LUMIÈRE” solo exhibition presented in partnership with MakersPlace. Curated by Jessica Marinaro, the exhibit opened at The Canvas 3.0 gallery in the Oculus at The World Trade Center in New York City on January 31, 2024, and continues at The Untitled Space gallery in Tribeca from February 8-March 8, 2024.

The exhibition unveils Cesarine’s latest series of surreal photographic light paintings, sculptures, and the “Lumière” series wearable art fashion collection, along with the debut of her animated photographic NFTs, which are available on the MakersPlace platform. In addition to her “LUMIÈRE” series, which includes animated light paintings, photography on aluminum, and large-scale photographic prints, viewers have the opportunity to experience a selection of Cesarine’s hand-welded steel and neon sculptures, celebrated video art films, and a selection of new works extending the exhibition in the new location.

Curator Jessica Marinaro of MakersPlace and Artist Indira Cesarine at Indira Cesarine “LUMIÈRE” Solo Exhibition Reception + Artist Talk, Curated by MakersPlace at The Untitled Space (Photography by Jade Greene)

“LUMIÈRE” encapsulates Cesarine’s contemporary female gaze on Surrealism, a theme the artist has been exploring through a variety of mediums over the past several decades. For her latest series of works, Cesarine juxtaposes the surreal techniques of light painting with graceful and empowering portraits of female dancers to evoke an ethereal universe of divine energy. Through digital animation, Cesarine’s light paintings come to life, harmonizing with her chiaroscuro portraits that accentuate the power of the human spirit through the movements of dance.

Cesarine’s nude silhouettes, body-painted with vines, leaves, and spirals, carry profound symbolism, which is also reflected in the light of her double exposures. Fantasy and illusion merge as the artist navigates the imagery of the subconscious mind, portraying the human form with emotive strength. In her photographic light paintings, Cesarine assumes a hidden yet crucial role in their composition, adding an intriguing layer to the visual narrative.

Indira Cesarine “LUMIÈRE” Solo Exhibition Reception + Artist Talk, Curated by MakersPlace at The Untitled Space (Photography by Jade Greene)

For those of you who were unable to attend the reception and artist talk, check out a transcription of the talk by artist Indira Cesarine and curator Jessica Marinaro below:

Indira Cesarine: Thank you guys so much for coming! So this is the LUMIÈRE exhibit. Where is Jessica? Maybe you want to come up and join me? Jessica Marinaro is the curator. We’ve been working together on this for nearly a year. Jessica is the Senior Director at the MakersPlace, which is one of the top NFT art platforms out there. I’m sure a few of you have heard of Beeple, who sold his artwork for 65 million?

Jessica Marinaro: 69! 

IC: 69 Million! Well, they did that, right? They’re the ones who made that sale. They put their mark on the digital art scene, got the noise going, and I would say, are one of the top movers and shakers of the NFT world.

We’ve been working together and chatting about collaborating for the last year. It [the LUMIÈRE exhibit] initially was going to be in an art fair, and then the whole thing turned into the exhibit at The Canvas 3.0 gallery at the World Trade Center, and now it’s here, at The Untitled Space. So, it’s been an amazing transition.

In any case, a lot of people have asked about the artwork and about the technique that I’m using in my artwork. A lot of people are like, “What are these?” and “What is a light painting?” 

So, just to get started, I’m going to explain a little bit about the art itself. You can see throughout the entire body of work, the light paintings, which are all in camera exposures. They’re not done digitally, for example, with some special effects program, it’s actually in my camera as a double exposure. I’ve been working and pretty much practicing photography my whole life – since I was thirteen. 

Man Ray invented light painting in 1937. As you can see throughout the exhibition light painting has become a passion of mine because I feel like you can evoke a lot of emotion and energy with the technique. I work with a lot of dancers in my artwork because I love the combination of the energy of the human spirit captured with the light and the emotion of the movement. 

Indira Cesarine’s LUMIÈRE Artwork, courtesy of the artist

I also incorporate a lot of body painting. There are two things behind the body painting. Number one, I love the symbolism of all these incredible vines that reference Mother Nature, and the spiral, which is one of the earliest pagan symbols that is about transmitting energy. Interestingly, the spiral is also in DNA molecules and whirlpools, all these different forces of nature, and it’s a symbol of energy. The body painting [in my artwork] progressed because of censorship online. That’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, but I found that the majority of my artwork I couldn’t post on social media because it would get taken down straight away because I photograph female nudes. I decided that I had to figure out a way where I could share my work, where people could see it, and where I could incorporate elements of my beliefs and the representations that I want to see in my work while at the same time being able to post it online.

So I started incorporating body painting. I do a lot of the body painting myself. I also collaborate with makeup artists who sometimes help me with this. It’s become a big part of the symbolism in my work. One thing I realized as I started working on this whole series and the NFT artwork, with all the spirals, is that a lot of the references that you are seeing in the body painting are references I’ve had in my artwork my entire life, and I didn’t even realize it. 

I was just repeating these motifs. I realized that they have a lot of personal meaning and that I was trying to say something [with the symbolism] for a long time. It was all kind of coming together and came out with the light paintings – which I have now also turned into a wearable art collection. (clapping) 

I’m excited about that, all the bags, dresses, and jumpsuits you see. I turn my light paintings into an abstract pattern that I can photo print on fabric, so everyone can be a work of wearable art.

Indira Cesarine with White Wave Dance Company wearing the “Lumière” Collection: Ellie Swainhart, Mark Willis, Blue Richardson, Madeline Dwyer (Photography by Memry for BFA)

Speaking to the NFTs, it was such a huge transition to turn my photographs into NFTs. Initially, Jessica and I talked about it and we were just going to do the photographs as NFTs. Then I started playing around and animating the light paintings. Before you know it, I had an entire collection of animated NFTs that completely changed and transformed the whole direction of the work and brought it to life. Look at the way they breathe! I see my NFT light paintings as if they are breathing. 

I would love Jessica to speak about the NFT space and women in the NFT space and what’s happening with that.

JM: I could listen to you talk for hours, let’s give it up for Indira. (clapping)

What a beautiful presentation and it’s embodied in the couture that we can all purchase very soon. It’s been such an honor to have worked with you on this amazing series. As Indira said, I am a digital art expert now and I’m working primarily with NFTs and digital art, but also, creative technology in general collaborating with artists who are pushing the boundaries of the new mediums that are available to us. My background is in the traditional art world, I’ve been working in the New York gallery scene for almost two decades. I have a deep appreciation for masters of photography and multidisciplinary artists like Indira who are interested in experimenting with new media and it’s a privilege to be able to have worked on that and collaborate and guide her through that process because it is a brand new space and it’s something that the most bold and innovative artists are tapping into. 

There is a wide spectrum of the quality of work that’s out there and there are PFP projects and the speculative nature of NFTs, which got a lot of hype and then came crashing down and are not in favor. Then some artists are embracing this medium as a store of value or a way to authenticate and give provenance to otherwise non-valuable pieces. Where a JPEG is a JPEG, but once you put it on the blockchain, once you have provenance, and you have a secure transactional record of who bought it, when, and for how much, now you have an asset of value, like photography decades ago when the edition was like, well if you have that and I have that, who really owns it?

It’s a very interesting concept, it’s still a new field. What Indira’s done is what we would call a “phygital” presentation, which is pairing actual photographs with an animated digital asset. On MakersPlace, which is the company that I work for, you buy them together, and that’s amazing.

Indira Cesarine LUMIÈRE Exhibit, The Untitled Space

Speaking a little bit about the state of the market, it’s volatile like any other market. It is tied to currencies, so there is a lot of hype and speculation, but what we’re seeing now is the best quality artists and artworks are filtering to the top.

Which is great, because the more speculative projects are going away. It’s wonderful to also see more females in this space. This is something that I think is the subject of Indira’s work, especially in this series. It’s very empowering. There’s a sense of a strong and focused female in the center.

I think in the NFT space, there’s an opportunity, more than in the traditional art world, for female artists to break through. There’s a more democratized landscape, and there are a lot of different projects and movements where women are more encouraged and emboldened to put their projects forward. Sounds a little vague when I’m saying it like that, but it is a male-dominated space in the tech world in general. I think about 70% of crypto artists and collectors are still male, so we have a ways to go, but the path is being opened. There’s every opportunity available. To see these kinds of projects at this level and quality is just amazing. That’s why we’re thrilled to work with you! 

Curator Jessica Marinaro of MakersPlace and Artist Indira Cesarine at Indira Cesarine “LUMIÈRE” Solo Exhibition Reception + Artist Talk, Curated by MakersPlace at The Untitled Space (Photography by Jade Greene)

IC: Thank you! Does anybody have any questions about the artwork or anything? 

Audience Member: I would love for you to talk a little bit more about the pagan influence that you mentioned with the spirals. 

IC: The spiral is one of the ancient pagan symbols. I believe one of the earliest symbols that they found actually. It’s also found throughout nature, for example, in shells, whirlpools, water (like when it goes down the drain), and DNA. It is a symbol of progression, of energy, of a higher consciousness, of change.

For me, the spiral has always been a very important symbol in my work because my work is about progression and change. My work is about putting things out there in a forward-thinking way to promote progression and change across many platforms, whether it’s for diversity and equality, or higher consciousness.

Those are important themes throughout my work. This spiral is something I kept seeing. If you look at my welded steel sculptures, those were done in 2018. I included them in the show because all of them have the spiral motifs involved.

Indira Cesarine’s LUMIERE Artwork, courtesy of the artist

When I saw my light paintings, the spirals, also in the body paintings, this all came together. I said to myself, “There’s something about this spiral that keeps drawing me in.” It was unconscious, I was not aware of it until this last body of work. I was like, “Wow, I keep doing this reference and it has something that is reaching me.”

That’s what the light paintings are about, by the way. The light paintings are about hidden energies. Those hidden energies that we all feel. You know, when your intuition speaks to you, or when you get that gut feeling, or when you meet someone and there’s like that frisson, that heat, you know, the lifeforce or whatever it is… That energy that we have all around us keeps us connected. The light paintings are about making that physical, where you can see it. I work with dancers to create that physical and spiritual energy as part of the images.

Any other questions? 

Audience Member: How long have you been painting with light? And what started you on that path?

IC: I’ve studied and have created photographic artwork that’s surrealist-themed since I was like fifteen or sixteen, my very early days. I was always inspired by Jean Cocteau and Man Ray. Jean Cocteau did the Beauty and the Beast movie… and he did all these incredible light painting portraits. When I was researching for the “LABYRINTH” exhibition I had in 2020, I saw some of that work and got very inspired and just started playing around with that. It was a natural progression for me and after doing a few of them, I became addicted. It’s such an esoteric kind of abstract way of working with photography, you know? It’s very unique. 

JM: It’s also very physical, right? Because you’re moving. The light is all the movements of the light. That’s because you’re moving. So it’s almost like performative in the creation process.  

IC: Just to explain to some people who probably are like, “I don’t know what they’re talking about with light painting.” When I set up to photograph the models, I have a set. I photograph the model, and then I run behind the model as she’s moving in her pose, with a very, very bright light, and do the shapes. That’s how it is done, and it’s a matter of working in tandem with the dancer. She’ll be jumping and leaping in the air, and I’m behind her with the laser light to create the effect that I want to bring out in the energy.

Indira Cesarine’s LUMIERE Artwork, courtesy of the artist

Audience Member: I’m sorry, silly question, it’s just technical because I’m not a photographer. How come you’re not in the photos? 

IC: This is one of the incredible things about light painting and why it’s considered a magical art form. It’s a very long exposure and it’s just a trick of the light. The camera is only sensitive to the brightest point of the light. These take about one minute each to expose, right? Very rarely you will see traces of a person in the image in the background, but for the most part, when it’s pitch black, the camera only picks up the light that you’re holding, because it’s facing and pointing to the lens. You can research it there are a lot of videos online, about how to do it, if you’re curious to learn. It is a very technical process. It’s more for people who have advanced experience with photography.

Audience Member: That means you’re in all the photos? 

IC:  I am in the photos. That is one of the things that Jessica mentioned in her curatorial statement on the work. I’m in the photos, you just can’t see me. I’m right behind the model and that’s not retouched, only some light cleanup of makeup or something, but for the most part, that’s all in the frame, and I’m in there, in the darkness. 

Indira Cesarine LUMIÈRE Exhibit, The Untitled Space

Audience Member: Are you printing them yourself? 

IC: These [on the wall] are printed on aluminum. There are metallic fine art prints that I print myself. The metal prints I have done because it’s a process. 

Audience Member: I’m curious, what was your inspiration for the leaves and the plant designs in a lot of the pieces? 

IC: All the leaves and vines are inspired by concepts of mother nature. Going back to the first woman, Eve, all the myths that revolve around the Garden of Eden, and women as a life force, as a giver of life, and just that combination of the progression and growth that you see in nature. Then painting that on the human body – it’s a combination of bringing out these elements. 

Audience Member: Where do we find your fashion line? 

IC: The fashion line is launching in the next few weeks. I got inspired while working on this collection. We originally were doing a proposal for an art fair, and I created all these abstract photographs that were just with the light paintings as abstract pieces. I got inspired to do them as fabric. I’d already been working on the fashion collection, but not with the light paintings, with other photographs. Once I started working on the light painting fabric, I was like, “This is it. This is me.” I’m excited for that to come out. There are photo-printed bags, light paintings on leather, and dresses in silk, there’s a massive range that’s launching soon!

Indira Cesarine at the “LUMIÈRE” Solo Exhibition Reception + Artist Talk, Curated by MakersPlace at The Untitled Space (Photography by Jade Greene)

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