Artist Anne de Carbuccia’s message is razor-sharp clear, prompting viewers of her photos to reflect on the damage mankind has done to nature and animals. “We are past judgments. There’s no pointing fingers here but, rather, there are questions on what we want for the future,” says de Carbuccia at her Milan studio ahead of her first public exhibition, “Water at Dusk,” opening at Monaco’s Musée Océanographique on Friday.
The striking photos are part of an ongoing project called “Time Shrines” by de Carbuccia, who is an art historian and anthropologist born in New York and raised in Paris. She draws inspiration from 16th- and 17th-century vanitas art and meticulously creates time shrines reminiscent of still-life paintings of that period, which generally featured a skull and an hourglass. “These are symbols of time, not death, and I build shrines to time. They are static installations in a natural lively environment,” she explains, pointing to the transient nature of human existence and the resilience of the earth.
De Carbuccia adds organic elements to the shrine, such as a whalebone or shells, as well as tribal ornaments. The locations are remote, from the Kilimanjaro jungles to Antarctica and the Mekong River in Laos, highlighting the erosion of glaciers or the dams that threaten the river’s ecology. But de Carbuccia also tackles issues that are closer to home, such as the mounds of toxic waste buried in the so-called “Terra dei Fuochi” (“land of fires”) between Naples and Caserta in Italy, or that of migrants on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, off Sicily.
De Carbuccia takes plenty of risks to capture the right image, a few steps away from wild elephants and hippos, or perched on the edge of a glacier. But there are no tricks, no quick swipe of Photoshop to inject an animal or particular sunset. She simply waits and waits until the right image is before her.
“These are intimate situations, and I never know what I will find, so I wait with patience and in silence. I never have a big crew,” she says.
The Monaco exhibit is a precursor to a larger one de Carbuccia is organizing in New York that will open Sept. 30 at the Westbeth Art Gallery. In 2014, she founded the nonprofit organization Timeshrine Project, which donates proceeds from the sale of her works to protect the environment.
“This is my way to exorcise what may happen in the future,” de Carbuccia adds, noting that the younger generation is much more attentive to ecological issues. “Do we want to live in a world without elephants? We have choices we can make, especially as a consumer.”