Miscommunications is a series of mixed-media works of art that conjure archaeological remnants containing messages – using unfamiliar alphabets, pictorial languages, or seemingly reliquary objects and materials as symbols. The symbols or characters depicted on the canvases could be ancient languages or pictorial systems, secret alphabets of the artist’s invention, or contemporary “language” systems displaced from their original context to create new meaning. The seemingly reliquary objects could also be contemporary objects reconfigured to convey a particular message or idea.  These works represent the human need and struggle to express ourselves, be understood by others, and to comprehend our world with respect to the messages we receive through others; directly or indirectly.

Whether it be the need to understand our past through the objects and messages left behind, or the challenge of translating different forms of communication amongst ourselves — when misunderstood; disorientation, disconnection, and questions of identity can emerge. These “artifacts” are meant to be discovered by the viewer and trigger the impulse to decode their messages, and experience the unending struggle to comprehend that which may or may not ever be understood…

The works in the series utilize a variety of materials including sand, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, dried beans, packaging twine and other household materials. The materials are applied in layers and painted with acrylic paints and glazes, sometimes using mica powders to create a shimmering or metallic finish. The series emerged visually from the later texture collages the artist created which were purely abstract, but began to reference ancient writing symbols like those found on cave walls and archeological remnants. The works in the series also include messages using visual Morse code, cuneiform, and pictorial symbols designed by the artist. Sculptural interpretations utilize found objects, repurposed and manipulated to convey new meaning.

Miscommunications: Can you see? (Braille), 2008, (first row, right) is a work in the series that uses Braille to communicate a plea to “be seen,” that is universal, but not always responded to. The translation of the Braille message reads: you still do not understand me you only believe what you see what will it take to open your eyes to look at yourself and to finally see me. The actual work is in low relief collage (acrylic paints/glazes, sand, dried beans, plaster, mica powders) on canvas, and can be read through touch, as customarily done by a blind reader, but for the sighted viewer unfamiliar with Braille, the literal message is visually abstracted and completely obscured.

Miscommunications Series: Mantras to Myself – The Four Agreements (Runes) (Pictured in above photo displayed on easel on the right) hand carved and fresco painted gypsum plaster on canvas board 18in x 24in (c) 2009 Carla E. Reyes

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word 2. Don’t Take Anything Personally 3. Don’t Make Assumptions 4. Always Do Your Best

“Everything we do is based on agreements we have made – agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible. One single agreement is not such a problem, but we have many agreements that come from fear, deplete our energy, and diminish our self-worth.” -Don Miguel Ruiz, Mexican Toltec, Nagual author and teacher

This work of art contains the Toltec teachings as translated by author and teacher Don Miguel Ruiz, hand carved in plaster by the artist in an attempt to reinforce through laborious repetition, this liberating ancient wisdom. The choice of a labor intensive and difficult artistic, ritualistic, process serves as an ironic and tangible analogy for the real life struggle to commit to this powerful code of conduct that can eventually free us from suffering…

Come for a (virtual) studio visit to see some Miscommunications in progress!