THEN. An avid bicyclist, Gioia Fonda recalls pedaling through the streets of her neighborhood while dodging mountains of garbage that belonged to the victims of foreclosure, eviction or house flippers. She saw them as harbingers of the housing crisis of 2008.
What was first an annoyance became an obsession. She began photographing the piles and turning them into beautiful drawings that reflected much more than abandoned junk.
“There were just these huge trash piles all the time,” she says. “A few years earlier, my parents lost their house to foreclosure. So that’s an issue that’s close to me, just how uprooting that is. It’s hard when you see someone’s belongings on the street. It’s very private, but it’s also very public.”
Within each pile, she began to see similarities.
“There were multiple layers of meaning that I found in these trash piles,” Fonda says. “Then, I saw more consumer patterns and what we value, what we save and how much stuff that we buy that’s just not repairable, like those plastic lawn chairs.”
NOW. A decade later, Fonda is an art professor and chair of the art department at Sacramento City College. Art is on her mind, but so are her students and the future of teaching art digitally to young people who want to be the next generation of Sacramento artists.
“I’m encouraging my students to sketch and journal about what they’re doing right now because I do think it’s historic,” she says. “In terms of a creative time, it could be really rich, but it is pretty distracting.”
Yet Fonda sees color on the horizon. She was chosen to create a public art piece that will hang inside the new California Health and Human Services building. Next summer, a 30-by-9-foot–tall cascade of ceramic tiles individually bathed in color will welcome passers–by.
“I’ll be using commercial tiles, but I’ll be doing my own glazing. So basically, I’m using the painter part of my brain, but I’m using glaze instead of paint,” she says. “The look of it is hand–painted tiles. It’s super colorful. I’m really excited about it.” gioiafonda.com