by Elizabeth Marruffo
After finishing a series of international arts residencies in Italy and Mexico, I had my luggage stolen.
Luggage containing all of the work I had created over the 12 month period.
It was a devastating experience.
It made me think about the ways we process loss. The ways we deal with things that are unchangeable and beyond our understanding. It made me think how we can will that loss into something else.
In my home country, Mexico, there exists the votive painting tradition. These are small paintings that are commissioned as a response of gratitude for a perceived miracle that has occurred. Giving thanks and acknowledging the forces that exist beyond our control. They often celebrate a successful return from the edge of the void, a cured illness, surviving a car crash, a marriage conquering infidelity.
I began to paint a series of votive works for the unidentified thief of my artworks. Each one, a love spell, an attempt to turn loss and devastation into hope and optimism. These sixty love spells are painted on hexagonal panels of wood, incorporating the symbols I have developed in my practice, some of the artworks that were stolen, as well as some of the mundane personal items.
The love spells themselves were drawn from online sources. Quiet pockets of the internet, where feminine desire and ambition is nurtured and invisible ways of manifesting these needs are planned. A whispered word here, a sprinkling of salt there. Gentle, discreet ways that women, for centuries, have attempted to effect change in the physically brutal world around them.
It is no coincidence that these spells are found in small pockets of the internet that are easily dismissed or disregarded. As the voices and knowledge of women have been dismissed and disregarded throughout time. Here, in these digital covens, voices can rustle against one another and talk of new possibilities.
These painted spells exist as new possibilities. As records of loss. As objects of transformation. As acts of transgression.
They are for myself, for my family, for what is gone and what will come.
These are love spells, for a thief.
The following small hexagons are acrylic, oil and copper leaf on wooden panel, measuring 20cm x 27cm. The images show the painted front of the wooden panel and also an image of the back of each panel where the love spell is written’
Header photograph by Claire Mueller