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MSVU Collection

¤ Tonia Di Risio

Date of Work
¤ 2003

Accession Year
¤ 2003

Accession Number
¤ 2003.1

¤ On display

¤ Photography
¤ Sculpture / Installation

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Tonia Di Risio
Nonna's Living Room

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Tonia Di Risio
(b. 1971 Oakville, ON; lives in Halifax, NS)

Nonna’s Living Room (from the series Homemade) 2003
Ilfochrome, duratrans in light box
light box: 126.5 x 100.5 cm; film: 126 x 100 cm; image: 103 x 99 cm
Commissioned by MSVU Art Gallery with support from Nova Scotia Tourism and Culture, 2003
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection

For the Homemade series, Tonia Di Risio has built dollhouses that recreate her parents’ and grandparents’ homes in Toronto and her own place in Halifax. Di Risio presents these miniature constructions in the form of photographs and video animations.

In Nonna’s Living Room, cut-out figures representing Tonia, her mother and her grandmother act out a housecleaning scene. The older women somewhat testily supervise the efforts of the young post-homemaker. The light box format is typical of advertising found in consumer environments, yet Nonna’s Living Room lacks the seamless realism of a cleaning product set. Unlike an advertising art director, the artist draws attention to questions of gender and generation in an ethnic context by exaggerating the artificiality of the scene. This artificiality also makes room for variations in the Homemade series, allowing the miniature interiors to act as theatrical sets in which to stage new thinking about what it means to be of Italian descent. In her catalogue essay for Homemade, Leah Garnett writes, “as a space of invention, the dollhouses do not proffer didactic statements about being a Canadian-Italian, middle-class woman. Identities, although they have indisputable and informative histories, always have a malleable present.” Di Risio can “renovate and refurbish her families’ identities,” instead of assigning them solely to the role of the fixed ideal.

Tonia Di Risio received a BA in Art and Art History from the University of Toronto in 1994, and an MFA from the University of Windsor in 1996.

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