Sienna DeGovia uses the potent symbology of American ephemera, carnival games, and comestibles to illustrate the ravenous nature of American consumption and the endless quest for satiety-both physical and spiritual. The types and quantities of food prevalent in the immoderate excesses of the American diet as well as the seemingly innumerable weapons we have access to, together as emblems of Americana, speak to the endemic sense of entitlement we feel to have anything and everything we want, at any time, immediately. Believing that the very founding of our country, and therefore the root of our American identity, is steeped in this sense of entitlement and the use of force to take what we desire, DeGovia creates pieces to address these excesses.
While early work focused solely on the idea of personal consumption, nostalgia and fitting into acceptable societal standards of beauty and femininity, Sienna grew to consider the uniquely American ability to cross and confuse desire and physical need, highlighting the impossibility of distinguishing between the two. There must always be something new to want and we must never be told we can’t have it.
Much of her recent work is the result of experiencing the weight of responsibility precipitated by motherhood. Is it possible to undo or at least influence the next generation in the right direction while also wrestling with the ever present specter of potential loss threatened by raising a child in what feels like the violent culmination of a country founded on the myth of white exceptionalism? Motherhood brings the finite quality of our habitation of this time and space into sharp and harrowing focus. Looking into the face of the vast incomprehensible magnitude of what it means to be alive, to love, and to have something to lose is terrifying. Consciousness is altered, focusing sharply on one small being. An extreme narrowing of vision causing the perception that any deviation from absolute vigilance will result in loss of life, an unfathomable grief that cannot be endured.
Can this comparatively small personal struggle be reconciled with the greater societal calamities of mass shootings, disproportionate violence against Brown and Black bodies, and the quickly diminishing resources of our planet? Is there any such thing as grief insurance? Can the act of examining the worst human tragedies in some way inure us to the certainty of violence and horror in our own experience? To what degree do each of us hold this responsibility for the greater community, for our neighbors, our fellow mothers and fathers, our country?
These are the questions DeGovia wrestles with in her art practice. While the myth of white American exceptionalism teaches us that we are above rebuke and beyond questioning, DeGovia holds a mirror up to herself and her experience as a product of and participant in this narrative. There are forces at work to permanently enshrine these twisted ideals into the fabric of our American society. Perhaps careful examination and self reflection is one way to foment positive change.