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Eva Petric - Recycling Shadows 

Eva Petric has spent her life studying shadows– the liminal space that connects us all to each other, to our environment, and to the past. You might think that shadows are black and white, but according to Eva they are grey, grey like the matter in our brain that allows us to interact with the world. 

by Hannah Hightman, July 24, 2023


“My Master’s thesis for my first year was called Language of Shadows, and it explored how the shadow has appeared in the cave paintings all the way to new technology art. I was wondering if there was an emotional connection to shadows,” said Petric. “So I made this book Gr@y Matter: The Language of Shadows.” In her recent installation at 28 Liberty Digital Art Gallery, her exploration of shadows continues and their various cultural connotations. Many of the photos in the video installation are sourced from Gr@y Matter. “The book is formed like the periodic table of elements. I call this book the DNA of my work,” said Petric. Although her art is not overtly political commentary, Petric welcomes interpretations of her work that center the idea of equality. “Even though I’ve never been a person that uses art overtly for political means, I’ve always been interested in the existential and the border between life and death,” she said. Her work with shadows is also informed by her multicultural identity, and the ephemeral connections she’s formed with people on her travels.  “When I was younger, we moved to New Delhi from a small village in Slovenia,” she said. “I remember this girl in India who was almost my age, but her life was completely different. She was having to take care of her baby siblings while I was playing with dolls. Our lives were so different, but we had this connection. Our shadows, cheesy as it sounds, were the same.”


Petric believes the strength of her work – and the strength of art in general – lies in its ability to communicate complex ideas through symbols vested with significance. “We need these kinds of metaphors and symbols to access these realizations,” she said. “That’s why art is so powerful, it uses the language of metaphors.” Although she recognizes the value of more bombastic art, she hopes her work is gentle enough to encourage viewers to change their mind without being overly didactic. “A lot of pop art says things really strongly and sometimes that’s necessary, but often, if you want to achieve change, you have to get people to stick with you long enough to accept and listen,” she said. “Then they might come to a realization that there’s more to something.”


The Recycling Shadows installation at 28 Liberty Digital Art Gallery isn’t directly a performance piece, but the energy of artistic performance is what drives it. For a year, Petric photographed her shadow, performing to an audience of none. “In those works, when I was photographing myself, I didn’t consider it performance at all,” said Petric. “But now when I look back at them, I’m like yeah, I was performing in front of the camera. The spectators were post-creation. I was doing certain choreographies and I was in front of the camera in a safe environment where there was no one watching.” Now, performance has become a mainstay of Petric’s artistic practice, because it brings to the forefront her ideology of interrelatedness. “Over the years, performance has become something I really liked to do, and one of the most challenging forms of art,” she said. “In no other art form do you have the interaction and energy that you feel from the audience. Art performances are different from theater because there is more of an element of improvisation and it’s a different context. The energy you feel or generate from the viewers is more intense.” 


Intense but delicate, the gentleness of her work is heightened by the recurring use of lace. To Petric, lace is a more accessible motif to convey this idea of togetherness. “The shadows for me represent this connecting aspect. We all have shadows, so it’s a point of equalization. This network of laces makes it clear that it denotes interconnections, but for me the shadow already says that.” The lace figurine on display at 28 Liberty Digital Art Gallery has been connecting people in this world and beyond; it was recently displayed at the International Space Station. “For me, it wasn’t such a big deal that it was at the International Space Station itself, but the idea that it was looking down at Earth,” said Petric. “The ability we have as humans to get a different perspective is amazing. Many astronauts have this epiphany looking down at Earth from space, that we really are so small and so amazing, and we really need to stick together. That’s why I cared about the lace figure being up there, because now it has that collective perspective.”

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