By VITTORIA BENZINE May, 2022
Would you take that ride, that road to nowhere? Does anybody really have a choice? Melody to the Stars, the latest solo show by Sandra Cinto at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, enchants viewers to confront the conundrum with awe. The show’s first room alone offers a spectacle of eight large-scale canvases in identical sizes, space dust accreting into bridges and waves and constellations atop deep blue backgrounds. Similarities abound despite their intricate details, rendered by Cinto’s signature drawing practice. On view since April 2nd, this week marks the show’s final run, its mission complete in carrying us through the equinox.
Ascend the Chelsea gallery’s stairs and explore two rooms that continue the show. A larger gallery, sun-dappled courtesy of a skylight, basks in huge patchwork paintings of sun worship, “Sun (Dandelion)” and “Grande Sol (Great Sun),” each created in 2022 and placed at opposite ends of a rectangular room. Comparatively miniature works of acrylic and pen on wood punctuate the longer walls at equal intervals, an ode to the sun as not only Earth’s primary source of energy, but also humanity’s ultimate keeper of time.
Despite its dazzle, Melody to the Stars fosters intimacy with its smallest room, an immersion into Cinto’s practice featuring works on paper, a violin, an accordion drawing displayed in a mirrored case, and a desk equipped so attendees can compose their own melodies.
“I have been working for 30 years, and I decided to use that small room to create my homage to drawing, and also my homage to music,” Cinto says. “I think my work is connected with music on many levels.” It was her childhood dream to learn classical ballet, but her family couldn’t afford classes. Instead, Cinto’s mother resourcefully spotted free rhythm gymnastics instruction and signed her up. “From six years old until 18 years old,” Cinto recalls, “I was very engaged with dance and rhythm.”
The artist has always loved drawing for its simplicity and tactility, infinite potential unfurling from a singular point—whether pencil or brush. Her constellation paintings have played with chance for six years, building backgrounds by leaving pigment and water to their own devices. Cinto sees the work getting deeper with time—as captivating as the iridescent drawings are, she asserts that the viewer’s eye goes right though to the rich landscape beyond.
Melody to the Stars marks her first time working in a batch of eight identical canvases, side by side and numbered one through eight in her studio, their commonalities inspiring her as each work came to fruition. Though modernity has wedged something between people and the place we come from, “we are nature,” Cinto reminds me. “Even when we are alone, we have the same essence, the same initial part that connects everything.”
A sense of movement gleaned from her formative years prevails across these artworks. Smaller paintings ripple like pebbles in a stream, sun paintings radiate from the inside out. “Far, near, high, down,” she says. “All the time I play with distance and movement in the lines.” When she sold her first painting 30 years ago, she bought a guitar just to have it. “Music is so universal,” Cinto says. “You can speak with all languages through music.”
Circling the eight constellation paintings on my own, I found myself singing “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads, an upbeat processional about the ultimate futility of “the Infinite Goof,” a term for all creation coined by psychedelic novelist in his 1971 book “Another Roadside Attraction.” The simultaneous everything-ness and nothing-ness of the universe, the once-desperate search for meaning at its center. “That paradox is the key to the meaning of meaning,” Robbins writes. “To look for meaning—or the lack of it—in things is a game played by beings of limited consciousness. Behind everything in life is a process that is beyond meaning.” This is more than a matter of mortality.
Beautiful as they are, Cinto’s works capture the loneliness of this reality where change is our only constant. Here, doing nothing is still doing something. “Our work as an artist is a lot about observation,” she states, whether that’s smelling flowers or savoring coffee with milk. “To observe things, you need to be free, doing nothing.” Perhaps ironically, Cinto’s technical mastery seduces viewers into a place beyond trying. A journey for the journey's sake, where swings spring from stars and bridges join empty locales. Some might call it optical illusion in the vein of Escher, if labels held weight in such a subconscious place.
Utility exists within entropy. Each element in Cinto’s canvases stems from her symbolic lexicon. Bridges are connections, more powerful than walls. “I want to create bridges for different levels of perception,” she adds. Swings represent the freedom of kids on a playground, the inner child in all of us. Points of light remind viewers they’re made of stardust too. “Everybody has light inside,” Cinto elaborates. “If you have light inside and you know that, you can do whatever you want. You can follow your dreams.”
“I always talk a lot about love,” Cinto says during our conversation. “I realized that for many people, especially if they are very intellectual, talking about love could be criticized. ‘You are a romantic, this is utopian.’ But for me, talking about love is a political act.”
She foregoes cynicism even when it’s hard, sees the progress people have made. “We have amazing doctors that can treat a baby inside its mom,” Cinto says. “We can go to the moon, we can build amazing buildings. We can fly.” People are part of nature—albeit a very small one. “When we are in front of the ocean, or when we are in a big place with canyons or mountains, we can see that,” Cinto says, but even in a city like New York, Melody to the Stars reestablishes that connection with greater nature wherever its canvases are displayed.
“My work is just a tool,” Cinto concludes. “You are free to go wherever you want. You can travel around oceans, around the cosmos. You can fly in a magic carpet, you can fly inside your mind, or inside your interior. You can activate your memories. It's about freedom.” Doing nothing is something—enter these trailheads towards nowhere and witness, in that meditative state, how the mind unwittingly rushes forth with its own scenery to fill the gaps. On view through May 7th. WM
Vittoria Benzine is a street art journalist and personal essayist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her affinity for counterculture and questioning has introduced her to exceptional artists and morally ambiguous characters alike. She values writing as a method of processing the world’s complexity. Send love letters to her via: @vittoriabenzine // email@example.com // vittoriabenzine.com
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