The Soothsayers: 3D Works on Paper by Emily Lombardo

Exhibition Website

Nov 18 2017 - Feb 25 2018

A Soothsayer is a person who predicts the future by magical, intuitive, or more rational means; someone who says Sooth, meaning “truth” or “reality,” a term dating back to the 14th century. 

The Soothsayers is an installation of sculptural prints, which represent excavated hearts from Magic 8 Ball toys that are positioned as divine relics of cultural nostalgia. 

The Magic 8 Ball was created in 1950, invented by Albert C. Carter, inspired by a spirit writing device used by his mother, a clairvoyant. The post World War II boom in industry propelled this toy into thousands of homes across America. By freeing the “relic” from the plastic enclosure of the 8 Ball, the multi faceted truth speakers can engage in a heightened, self-aware dialog with the viewer. The multiplicity of The Soothsayers speaks to these vast relationships over time. Plastic is transformed into stone like paper; nonsense banter into stark revelations that forces a sense of maturity and time on this youthful fortune-telling device. 

Printmaking as a means of art making is in constant conversation with mass production and the multiple. These objects are printed in the tradition of relief printing to achieve a deep embossment. Wet paper is positioned on top of wooden triangles with the text carved out. Then they are run through a printing press, forcing the paper deep into the negative space of the text to mimic the look of the raised text of the Magic 8 Ball. Then the paper is folded to take the shape of an icosahedron, creating sculptures that are made entirely of paper. Emily Lombardo explains: “As a kid I was always fascinated by the 8 Ball as this magic toy that was often considered heretical, by the deeply religious, as a false prophet. Born a left-handed, tomboy queer, I felt I also bared the stamp of ‘evil.’ Perhaps the texts I have authored on these relics are phrases that would have offered some comfort to myself and other marginalized identities during youth. These exposed hearts represent a longing for answers or truths with messages of inclusion in the grand narrative of struggle and love that encompasses us all throughout life. The relics’ text also speaks to the anxiety of our unknown future, which feels particularly fragile during this cultural moment as we childishly grasp for hope, luck and safety.”

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

  • Installation
  • American
  • Emily Lombardo

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