Virginia San Fratello’s sustainable light totems transform sawdust with technology to inspire joy.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
The totemic lights created by Oakland-based artist Virginia San Fratello (rael-sanfratello.com/virginia-san-fratello) are titillating in their neon hues and tactility that emulate the texture of fur found on animals, plants and flowers. Inspired by the need to create joyful interactions post-COVID-19 pandemic, San Fratello typed the word “furry” into an Artificial Intelligence (AI) text-to-image generator, which inspired an exploration into how to replicate these visually seductive surfaces in physical form.
Using 3-D printing, San Fratello imagined magical totem sculptures that together assemble as an otherworldly forest. Instead of seeing technology as at odds with nature, San Fratello sourced recycled and recyclable filament made of sawdust, corn-based bioplastics, pomegranate seeds, food packaging waste and water bottles to 3-D print her forms. Despite an immediate association with neon, their luminous bright colors are inspired by brilliant hues found in nature. Embracing symbiotic earth-life balance, San Fratello’s Furry Forest totems are as tree-like in their inherent nature-friendly composition as they are progressive in their creative design and function.
The late author and inventor Sir Arthur Charles Clarke famously asserted, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Acknowledging the short three-decade history of AI and 3-D printing, San Fratello views these technologies as tools for wild imagination. In a nod to the creative style of Magical Realism, San Fratello conceives her mystic totems in a vernacular drawn from the real environment.
“These light sculptures embody a way in which a new world might be created,” she shares. “I imagine coming across this patch of luminous totems in a forest and discovering that what is real and magical, and what is natural and technological is, in fact, indistinguishable.”
Celebrated for her design practice as an applied architectural researcher and design activist, Virginia San Fratello’s Furry Forest debuts at Design Miami/ with Cristina Grajales Gallery. Cristina Grajales is a distinguished Colombian-American design expert whose Tribeca-based gallery celebrates two decades. Amid Miami’s frenetic neon, her booth immersed in Furry Forest is an invitation to find comfort in joyful colors and harmonious warmth.