Julie A. DeRosa’s mixed-media sculpture, “How to Be Happy No Matter What Happens,” arrives in our physical
reality at a poignant time in which the condition of happiness has lost its natural variable state of being, and instead is an idealized commodity to be constructed, purchased and, therefore, faked.
Of the sculpture’s conceptual origins, DeRosa wrote, “Over the years, my thoughts on happiness have evolved quite a bit, and I get angry at the ‘happiness industry’ that prescribes all these shortcuts and environmental ways to be happy, yet avoids and ignores the deeper work one needs to do to figure out happiness. I also have come to resent that our society makes it seem as if we should be working to attain 24/7 happiness.”
“How to Be Happy No Matter What Happens” is, formally, an assemblage sculpture built up from discarded, found and vintage materials, some considered relics, through a craft and construction method into what is recognized as shrine art. As such, it is a visionary and active vector for personal and universal contemplation, meditation, transformation and healing. Being a shrine, it is open to interactivity, allowing for other valued objects to be placed inside the box to personalize the energy. Because of its popularity, contemporary shrine art
such as this is problematic in that it can, if mishandled as decorative art, fall into the realm of meaninglessness kitsch.
To avoid conceptual and aesthetic shallowness, DeRosa approaches each work with thoughtful consideration. The
objects within “How to Be Happy No Matter What Happens” were selected and arranged with purposeful intention. Each object is understood to be a common motif associated with wise choices, supernatural good luck, and karmic power. Of these objects, DeRosa holds an intimate connection with the red book, the focal object, bound tight with a belt, for which the sculpture is named. She explained that the vintage book, which was purchased at a flea market, has been in her possession for 15 years. “I think when I purchased the book it met some deep desire to have someone tell me how to be happy — give me a blueprint. I believed it could be that easy, and I was just missing the point. The book itself is filled with psalms and platitudes and, in essence, was the epitome of disappointment to a woman who secretly hoped that this old book had some forgotten formula for how to be happy that our modern society had left behind because it didn’t make any money.”