Even the owners of the John Offerman house, the Victorian landmark in which the Main Gallery is housed, gave Ms. Lettieri permission to use molding, decorative trim, and artifacts stored in the basement for her exhibit.
Ms. Lettieri is also the curator for "Give Me Shelter," also at the Main Gallery through July. That exhibition comprises a collection of sculptures by Bay Area artists, each of whom was given a small, house-shaped block of wood to embellish. Proceeds from the sale of that artwork will benefit organizations that provide vocational training for destitute youth in Ethiopia.
"My art is about taking objects that have lost their meaning or whose purpose is not known; taking the broken, the castoff, and altering or reassembling them," she said in an interview at the warehouse she shares with 10 other artistic refugees from the studios of the recently razed Portola Valley Town Center.
Examples of the castoff are an 18-pane, antique window frame with the original glass intact; a wooden headboard (which will be laminated by a fancy new technology called "lazertran" with a black and white photograph, from the Portola Valley archives, of an unidentified group of Victorian children); and a full-sized, wooden screen porch door that frames her illustration of "The Prodigal Son." For a pair of pieces about her grandparents, the artist incorporates "pieces of string too small to use."
The studio is impressively neat and organized because she needs "to be able to pick things out," she says. There are bird cages lined up on the shelves, dressmaker's forms on the floor, and a stash of keys, old letters, and ceramic body parts, in separate drawers on a bench.
Born and raised in Cape Canaveral, Ms. Lettieri took to drawing to compensate for a lack of playmates, she says. She received a BFA from the University of Florida in 1971, moved to Silicon Valley in 1978, and worked for Apple Computer, Regis McKenna, and Hill and Knowlton in their marketing and public relations departments until 1996.
While building her inventory of over 200 assemblage constructions, Ms. Lettieri worked as a mural docent at Hillview Middle School for four years and ran the Encinal Fine Arts Fair for three.
From 1998 to 2001, while her son was attending Menlo-Atherton High School, she served as the school's "public relations advocate," writing newsletters, brochures and press releases, and producing the student television show.
"The act of making something good out of what was formerly useless reminds me that there is hope for redemption," she says.
To view more of Ms. Lettieri's assemblages, visit www.mariannelettieri.com. For information on the exhibit, go to www.themaingallery.org.
"This Place Called Home" runs from July 5 through 29 at The Main Gallery, 1018 Main St. in Redwood City. A reception is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Saturday, July 7.
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