Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Cristina Burns

Cristina Burns’ work offers a poised and humorous vision of a world measured more by twisted fantasy than by the so-called sanity we are all so accustomed to assuming. Working primarily in photography, the artist creates works reminiscent of seventeenth-century European cabinets of curiosity, museums of medical and anthropological oddities, and children’s books, cartoons, and playthings—her photographs ooze a cloyingly saccharine Rococo sensibility that is distinctly infused with a touch of the macabre.

Cristina Burns. Magical Ingredients, 2014; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns. Magical Ingredients, 2014; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

In Magical Ingredients (2014), Burns’ stages a scene after a traditional Dutch or Flemish still life—traditional in composition and lighting—but replaces the food, dinnerware, candles, and other common objects depicted in sixteenth-century Northern European paintings with bright pink and blue toys, pieces of candy molded into human brains and eyes, a toy mermaid trapped in an upside down bell jar like a long-dead and preserved specimen, and an oversized black plastic ant lurking harmlessly in the bottom—left waiting to dig into the sugar-coated objects.

Cristina Burns. Haunted Mansion, 2014; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns. Haunted Mansion, 2014; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Haunted Mansion (2014), another work that is composed as a traditional still life, uses a mirroring device to create a symmetrical scene that heightens the sense of the uncanny. At the center of Haunted Mansion, a large porcelain-white baby-doll head sits with all of the reverence of a Buddha presiding over a tranquil scene. However, the doll is facing out from a triple A-frame candy-coated building set amidst plastic deer, buttercream icing flowers, small figures, and a pair of geckos that are devouring the head of a small female figure. As in many anime films, the evil specter or villain is cast as a deceitfully playful and alluring figure with devious intentions.

Cristina Burns. Healthy Breakfast, 2014; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns. Healthy Breakfast, 2014; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Healthy Breakfast (2014) takes a similar tack as her other works, but moves away from the still-life staging and towards a more humorous depiction of candy and sugary substances. An egg yolk-sized dollop of apricot jam sits in the middle of a thin white blob of icing complete with sprinkles on top—salt and pepper—and takes up half of a robins-egg-blue, gold trimmed, plate. Healthy Breakfast exists in an alternate universe, perhaps that of a child—or perhaps an adult and warped version of the existence we know, something akin to the netherworld that the character Betelgeuse rules.

Cristina Burns. The Fear of Choking, 2015; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns. The Fear of Choking, 2015; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

In a decidedly psychological turn, Burns’ photograph The Fear of Choking (2015), part of a series called Delusional Parasitosis, creates an image in which food becomes an obstacle, something to be feared rather than enjoyed. Where Burns’ image depicts a transformation of the conception of food, something that might be akin to an eating disorder, the illustrative quality of the image is quite affective as it places the viewer into the position of someone starting down a plate of rocks that they must eat.

Cristina Burns. Cruelty Free, 2015; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns. Cruelty Free, 2015; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Burns’ images vacillate between sweet and fearful, resonating with clichés and critiques, often traversing all of these qualities simultaneously. The artist’s work touches the depths of psychological despair, veers towards turpitude and injects the intense ups and downs of an energetic sugar rush. As a group, and a set of groups, her works function as the pieces of a puzzle—sharing motifs, figures, compositional strategies, and colors.

Cristina Burns. The Little Politician, 2015; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns. The Little Politician, 2015; photograph; 20 x 27 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Cristina Burns is a mixed media artist and photographer working in Naples, Italy. Burns’ work has been featured in numerous online and offline publications including Vogue.it, Panorama, L’Espresso Napoletano, StealMag and El Mundo. Her work has been exhibited across Italy, Europe, and in the United States including: Hive Gallery, Los Angeles; F+ Gallery, Santa Ana; Leica Galerie, Milan, Italy; Monteoliveto Gallery, Aix-en-Provence, France; and Galleria Mihvs, Naples, Italy.

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