Saturday, February 11, 2012

Superb Art in the Fez Medina

The influence of the Fez Medina is evident in the recent work of New York based artists David Packer and Margaret Lanzetta, whose exhibition Plus Loin, À L'Ouest du Maghreb, opens at the French Institute gallery in Fez on February 17. You can hear them speak about their work at a talk at the American Center on February 23 at 5pm.

That artists David Packer and his partner Margaret Lanzetta have fertile imaginations is clear when you visit their adjoining studios in Fez. Preparations for their exhibition are in full swing. Adorning the walls of David's studio are several fascinating constructions made from found objects.

David Packer - photo: Suzanna Clarke

"Astrolabs are a Fez thing," he says. "I was inspired by one I saw at the Batha Museum. They are a powerful image of ancient Arab culture and intellectual life." So the English sculptor and ceramic artist, usually based in New York, has created a modern interpretation of them using objects he sourced in the Fez Medina, ranging from a satellite dish, to blackboard protractors, to an antique silver door handle. Contrasting with this are other works made using brightly coloured plastic bottles and works on paper.

orange bottle

Packer is in Fez for nine months on a senior research fellowship, as part of the Fulbright program.

He was born in England and has lived in the United States since 1983. Since graduating from Florida State University, Tallahassee, with an MFA in 1994, he has exhibited extensively, with one person shows in galleries in New York, Chicago and Miami.

In Another Voice

In the studio next door, Lanzetta is busy producing her own interpretation of her time in Morocco. Around the walls of her studio are a series of bright squares featuring screen printed patterns. They are variations on a a subject that continues to fascinate her. 

"Pattern is a universal response; every culture uses it for different reasons," she says. "It's a form of communication and a way of encapsulating ideas…It's nature meeting geometry."

Lanzetta says being in Fez has influenced the colours she uses, as well as the concentrated and intense compositions. "Blue and green are not colours I've used in my palette before," she says. "Green, of course, is the colour of Islam."

Margaret Lanzetta - photo Suzanna Clarke

However, the patterns in Lanzetta's work are broken, as "a way of jarring the implicit order." After all, she points out, the real world is not so orderly. Her work calls on botanical silhouettes, architectural forms, and saturated color as cultural and historical references to India, Syria, Morocco, Italy, and the American West. Lanzetta prints onto wooden or canvas surfaces, using mediums from silkscreens, and digital technology to oil, enamel and acrylic paints.

Born in the United States, Lanzetta received her MFA in Painting from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has exhibited throughout the United States and internationally and has had two Fulbright Senior Research Fellowships, which took her to Germany, India, and Syria.
 Her sculptures and paintings are part of the permanent collections at prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the British Museum, and The New York Public Library.

Inherited Capital

David Packer and Margaret Lanzetta's exhibition will be on from February 17 until March 16 at the French Institute Gallery at 33 Rue Ahmed Loukili, Ville Nouvelle, Fez. On February 23 at 5pm they will give a presentation about their work at the American Center, 2 Rue Ahmed Hiba.

You can see more about them on and


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