When a volcano erupts, ancient rocks and magma — known as ejecta — spew into sight for the first time. Pennsylvania-based artist Anthony Cervino’s exhibition at Flashpoint Gallery, titled “Ejecta,” sends private aspects of Cervino’s life bubbling to the surface, exposing them to viewers for interpretation. The show is the result of a close, two-year collaboration with curator Shannon Egan, Cervino’s wife, who adds her own stories to the mix. It’s the first time they’ve worked together. “It’s all about collaboration, balance and equity,” Egan says. “This is the weirdest show I’ve ever done,” Cervino adds. Many of the works on view explore Cervino and Egan’s relationship, as well as their professional and personal successes and failures. Here are three pieces that speak to the couple’s distant and not-so-distant pasts.
Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW; through Sept. 12, free.
‘At Once Was I’ 2008–2015
In 2007, Cervino came across some discarded model airplane parts in a dumpster. “They belonged to a kid named Ed Stuber,” Egan says. “His childhood diary and scrapbook were also in there.” Cervino salvaged these cast-off remnants of childhood, arranged them on a canvas and doused them with model-airplane-gray primer. At Cervino’s 2008 Flashpoint exhibition, “At Once Was I” was the central piece. “It’s one of the only pieces of my artwork that I actually like,” Cervino says, “yet it’s been sitting in a box for the past seven years, and it’s never been shown anywhere else.” Cervino sees the work simultaneously as a success and a failure, and this time around, though it hangs in the exact same spot on the wall as it did in 2008, it remains in its storage crate. “The piece means something different now than it did then,” Egan says.
‘Folie a deux’ 2015
French for “a madness shared by two,” folie a deux is a delusion or mental illness shared by two people who are very close to each other, usually siblings or spouses. For this project, Cervino combined the old desks of his estranged father and Egan’s mother, who died in a car accident when Egan was a child. Egan’s mother used the black desk in her teenage years, and the wooden desk served as Cervino’s father’s workspace during optometry school. “The desks slot into each other to make a hybrid,” Egan says, who sees the project as a stand-in for both her and Cervino and their missing parents. “You never lose that need for approval,” Cervino says, “even from absent or deceased parents.”
‘The Ejecta’ (detail) 2015
The central work of the show is a row of six display cases with objects from Cervino’s art studio. “My studio is filled with things that have always been with me, but they never found a way to enter my work,” Cervino says. “This is an opportunity to test them.” The cases hold all kinds of ephemera — a boat cleat, a bizarre collectible dinner plate, multiple copies of the same Hardy Boys book (the last book Cervino’s father began reading to him as a child). In the box shown at left, a compressed-air tank and a steel light saber (based on the weapons held by early Star Wars action figures, rather than the fancy ones wielded in the movies) remind Egan of “a soldier lying in state with his weapon.” The cases “make it feel like a museum, where you look under a vitrine to see something precious,” Egan says, “but the outside of the cases are made to look like storage crates,” a crack at the notion of institutional approval.
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