Diana Zipeto, the Lowell-based artist who has built her career on the practice of rendering images, was shocked to discover that an MRI is more of a map than a photo. This fact is one that she gleaned through a combination of life experience and creative inquiry: after looking at MRIs capturing the progression of her father’s recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s, she found herself compelled to understand and render the images herself. Zipeto’s solo show, “Resonance,” on view at Galatea Fine Arts from December 2 through January 8, takes inspiration from these MRI images to present a portrait of one person’s struggle with disease and a loved one’s struggle to make sense of what it means.
Though the upcoming exhibit will also feature mixed media pieces, including a LEGO model of an MRI procedure and small plastic model brains, Zipeto’s acrylic paintings comprise the main body of the show. Painted in grayscale (and occasionally silver) on canvases ranging from 4” x 4” to 60” to 48”, the bold works in “Resonance” depict the unmistakable structures of the head—the brain, the skull, the eyes — and those likely unfamiliar to an untrained eye — blood vessels, nerves, soft tissues. The images seem at once alive and ghostly. Each is a recreation of a “slice” (an MRI image) depicting a different section of the head and/or brain. Certain works, viewed in order, recreate the experience of looking at real MRI images as presented online, where one moves “through” the head from front to back.
In one sequence, a shadowy gray figure is centered on a square canvas, forming a clearly recognizable head and neck. The images, including “COR 1” and “COR 2,” depict a coronal view (from the front to back of the brain). In the first and last two works a voided portion at the back of the head, like a black hole, seems to grow and recede. The remainder of the pieces in “Resonance” portray bony structures and blood vessels, but these simple works are particularly eerie. Zipeto noted that she too finds these images haunting, “because that’s kind of what’s happening, in a way, is this hollowing out of my dad’s head.” It is as if her father’s mind, that of a chemist, is emptying.