Alexandra Castelli


I paint underwater portraits of friends and family swimming in pools or in the open sea. I use their suspended movement in water as a visual metaphor representing a philosophical stance in life, an emotional path, a corporal reality… Water is, after all, the universal medium into which we are born and it makes up most of what we are chemically. In addition, it relieves us of gravity’s pull, allowing us to float freely in a suspended state, back to the ancestral womb, into our nebulous subconscious.

These are not proper portraits, often you can’t even see a face. I paint my swimmer’s posture, floating or swimming, how they face currents and tides. I paint the way the light falls upon their skin, a map of glowing sun lines, marks and twists across the surface. I study the deformities of wave and light, reflections, compressed and stretched, as my swimmers hold their breath and glide through their life journey.

Recently the pandemic has exposed our skin and our breath to invisible dangers. It has turned physical proximity into a calculated risk. We may feel isolated, but in reality there is no clear and safe separation between the envelope of our skin and our environment: we are one with this world, existentially, philosophically, in sickness and in health. We lend our physical and emotional edges to the daily impact of our destiny, compromises and battle scars in full view. The occasional flash of sunlight draws a quick line, tells a small visual story, sometimes beautiful, sometimes grotesque. Our borders are porous, our breath is short, and the journey ahead is long. The map for our survival is written on our skin like war paint, like tattoos, chronicling our path.

The ongoing series «My Archipelago” and “Apnea» both explore these crumbling boundaries of selfhood as we atomize into our common reality, all of our wilful attempts to hold onto individuality and privacy are futile: we are becoming one with the air and the water and the world: maybe we always have been, but there is a new beauty in belonging to this collective reality.

Alexandra Castelli grew up in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy (a place remarkably similar to Ibiza). She studied Psychology of Art at Yale University, lived and worked as an art dealer in NYC for 10 years, then moved to Ibiza 21 years ago. She continues to live and work on the island. Castelli has exhibited in Ibiza, Milano, Atlanta, Munich, Madrid, among others.