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Opioid Wakes: For Peter Bruun and Dina Fiasconaro the National Epidemic Hits Close to Home

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Peter Bruun and Dina Fiasconaro’s exhibition titled Opioid Wakes offers opportunities to explore and connect with humanistic threads around drug use and overdose at profound personal and universal levels. There are so many rich and meaningful layers of complexity in this exhibit, its inspiration, and its significance, both for those directly impacted and more universally for the world at large, that it is hard to know where to begin to write about it. 

Presented at Zo Gallery, which is located at 3510 Ash Street in Hampden and owned by multi-media artist Dara Lorenzo, who teaches at Towson University and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Opioid Wakes features Fiasconaro’s 3-channel 15-minute video, There Is No One What Will Take Care of You, and a selection of 16 drawings from Peter Bruun’s Memoir Series, positing a the subject of drug overdose and loss at the center of this exhibition.

 

Peter Bruun's Memoir Series at Zo Gallery
Peter Bruun, Hello, 2019, the opening piece from the first set of Memoir Series, charcoal and pastel on paper, 11 x-15 in. 
Peter Bruun, Recovery, 2019, the closing piece from the fourth and last set of his Memoir Series, charcoal and pastel on paper, 11 x-15 in. 

All human beings have experienced or will experience grief over the loss of a beloved partner, family member, or friend. But perhaps the most deeply felt grief comes from the loss of one’s child, such an unanticipated tragedy no matter what the circumstances. Somehow, we just expect them to live well past our lifetimes and to achieve their dreams. 

Bruun and Fiasconaro’s exhibition centers on the death of a young woman from overdose and what comes after. For Bruun, whose daughter Elisif died of an opioid overdose on February 11, 2014, his subject is his emotional journey after her death; for Fiasconaro, her focus is inspired by three individuals from Bruun’s family story, specifically Bruun, his daughter, and his daughter’s friend, who provided the heroin that led to her death. 

Bruun’s Memoir Series is a collection of 11-x-15-inch charcoal and pastel drawings he completed from 2019 to 2021. How appropriate that he drew in two of the most fragile media available to artists! Charcoal and especially pastel can be damaged, even destroyed, by gentle movement or vibration. Side note: Few museums will lend works in these media to traveling exhibitions, limiting how often they are displayed, interpreted, or considered from a technical point of view.

 

Still from Dina Fiasconaro's 3-channel 15-minute video, There Is No One What Will Take Care of You
Still from Dina Fiasconaro's 3-channel 15-minute video, There Is No One What Will Take Care of You

In a sense, the choice of media becomes a metaphor for the subject they represent. The Memoir Series launches with Hello, 2019, and concludes with Recovery, 2019, both executed on the first day of Bruun’s work on the project because, as he put it, “they represented the bookends of the story.” Over the next three years, he created dozens of drawings, all similarly sharing flowing lines with ink- inscribed statements commenting on the evolution of his grief.  

Fiasconaro’s There Is No One What Will Take Care of You also takes viewers on a journey through the heart-wrenching experiences of the father, but from a different perspective, focusing not only on the artist as grieving parent, but also on his daughter and her friend, all profoundly affected by the consequences of addiction.

The piece presents vignettes of the three characters moving through their stories: the father in his studio, working out his grief through his creative practice; his daughter’s friend in his jail cell; his daughter in the room where she receives the drugs in a package, and then overdoses. Narrative is more implied than overt, as are the intersecting echoes and connections between the three characters. 

At a certain point, one realizes the video installation is conveying a story about loss and grief, and right across the room are the very works by the subject of that fictionalized account, taking us directly into the heart of the lived experience of love and loss so suggestively conveyed by Fiasconaro’s art. For many reasons, this is an exhibit well worth our time and thought. 

 

Opiod Wakes is on exhibit September 8-29, 2023 at Zo Gallery.  

 

Dina Fiasconaro's 3-channel 15-minute video, There Is No One What Will Take Care of You, and Peter Bruun's Memoir Series at Zo Gallery

Artist Bios:

Peter Bruun came to Baltimore in 1987, where he lived until 2019 when he moved to Maine. Over the past two decades, he has pursued his art practice under the aegis of Bruun Studios. Bruun received a BA in Art History from Williams College, Williamstown, MA, in 1985, and went on to receive an MFA from MICA in 1989. He subsequently worked as an artist, writer, educator, curator, and cultural organizer, founding the New Day Campaign (2015-2019); serving as Founding Director of Art on Purpose (2005-2010); Exhibitions Educator at The Park School (1999-2005); and helping to found the city’s leading arts organization, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance

Dina Fiasconaro is an independent filmmaker and screenwriter, and professor of Film & Moving Image at Stevenson University, Owings Mills and Stevenson, MD. She works in a variety of formats: short and long form documentary, short and long form narrative, screenwriting, and video installation. Her work has been screened both nationally and internationally and it is available on platforms such as Kanopy and Amazon. Fiasconaro is a 2021 recipient of the Baker Artist Award, and her films have screened at a variety of national and international venues and film festivals, including the The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). She has honed her short films and feature scripts at MacDowell Artist Residency, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, Stowe Story Labs, Saul Zaentz Innovation Lab, and GrrlHaus Cinema Seminar in Berlin. She has an MFA in Directing from Columbia University, and a BS in T.V., Radio and Film from Syracuse University. 

 

Photos courtesy of the artists

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