Angels, motherboards and memory chips

Cici Artist fiddles with a small, red MP3 player. A movie she has made with her art is beginning to roll — a blue-faced angel fills the screen. The only movement is a subtle shrug of a wing tip. “I just wanted people to see a little piece of the wing,” she says, smiling, mimicking the movement with her own shoulder. “I just thought it was fun. I love angels for Christmas.”

Three players, each featuring a different angel painted by Artist, give motion to a three-foot Christmas tree, the design of which seems to be paying homage to the detritus of the digital age. Constructed out of motherboards, memory chips, a case fan and a sturdy silver frame, it represents what is left of the computers, laptops and printers that have served as trusty assistants to the multimedia artist’s growing portfolio of work.

“They are all tied together by way of fishing wire, so I could just snip and the whole thing would come apart,” says the longtime Stamford resident.

The tree, which was commissioned by S Magazine for its holiday issue, is in keeping with Artist’s recycling efforts, like her junk mail jewels series and old monitors she uses as frames for her paintings and prints.

The “evergreen” is part of an installation that begins at Artist’s front door. Her home, located off a sharp curve on a quiet street, is an apt metaphor for the unique art she crafts out of familiar objects.

“Wait, wait,” she says, holding back a visitor until she can situate three Pringles projectors into their proper place. As light shines through these former snack canisters, three round images appear on the ceiling — an angel, a Christmas tree and an abstract shape — which form a Christmas tree. “OK, now you can walk in.”

In many ways, her whole house is a gallery. As she talks about the tree, she heads to her office, where she screens her latest project, “Shakespeare on the Motherboard.”

“It’s Shakespeare in five minutes,” she says, laughing, as her version of “Macbeth” begins. Two-dimensional black-and-white characters play out this centuries-old tragedy against a backdrop of motherboards, computer wires and other parts. These “set pieces” are the same prints she created by taking photos of her digital stash, creating collages and printing them out on her large-scale printer. They are the last prints before it died and pieces ended up on the tree she made.

“This was a project about science and art, which is my thing,” Artist says. Before she became a full-time artist a dozen years ago, she worked in computer technology. The Christmas tree is a reflection of her aesthetic. “I like to take my two-dimensional art and move it across the screen, and I do that in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is with a story; sometimes it’s visual.

“The other thing that interested me was the idea of a tree as a place you can hang your work. A Christmas tree is really an installation project. If you put something up on the wall, people may or may not see it, but a Christmas tree is a centerpiece, something people tend to be drawn to and to walk around.”

As such, the boards, chips and circuits are accompanied by laminated portraits of angels she recently begun to create — only days before she got the call to create the tree. (“Isn’t that weird?” she asks.) They flow from other inspirations and series, notably the blue hues that she tends to employ for her faces (whether in painting, drawing, outdoor murals or sculpture), and her 2011 musicians series. With bold black lines for features, curlicue curls and bright yellow, orange or green watercolor washes for their tresses, these are creatures that just may take flight off their 3-inch canvases.

For the past two years, angels have been a muse for her family Christmas tree. In a closet in the front hallway, in one of several plastic bins that hold decorations and knickknacks, are her late mother’s Christmas angels, which Artist has used to decorate more traditional evergreen limbs. This year, apparently, they will have some company.

chennessy@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @xtinahennessy

Christina Hennessy