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Origins of Existence

by Nicola Burnell & Tessa D'Agostino

Sometimes you just fall in love with the work of an artist. It's a physical, emotional and spiritual reaction to a piece of work that can begin a journey into the very soul of its creator. This happened to me when I first laid eyes on Tessa D'Agostino's sculpture "Freeing the Light" which was part of the "All about Seven" exhibit at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

When Tessa saw her sculpture on the homepage of our Winter Issue she invited me to check out the construction of her latest work of art, an installation at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, called "Origins of Existence."

Tessa wrote: "I will start by weaving a tunneled entrance using a series of 8ft branches. From the outside of the space the entrance will resemble a cave with a warm glowing light attracting viewers inside." I kept reading. "In the center of the room will be a 6ft lighted sculpture woven with sticks, vines and driftwood. This will be the only light within the room which will cast branching shadows across the walls, ceiling, floor and the faces and bodies of those who enter."

I checked my schedule but could not make the date of the actual creation of this fascinating exhibit. I did, however, add the opening reception to my Google Calendar. When my phone reminded me of this event I knew I just had to go.

Tessa's work needs to be experienced first-hand to truly appreciate the depth of her message. "We are really meant to live right up to nature. Technology has taken over our lives. You can't experience nature through a screen you have to be standing within it to truly experience it, to BE within it," she says.

While her marketing postcards are beautiful, her work offers a multi-sensual experience unlike anything I've seen before. It took me right out of my own hectic life and transported me into a haven of crisp, fall leaves, captivating shadows and gorgeous natural forms that changed with every step that I took around her installation.

"We seem to often run on auto-pilot, forgetting the vast interconnected foundation of our very own existence," Tessa explains. "When I create installations such as "Origins of Existence" I aim to create an interactive environment that embodies the nature of our existence both inward and outward.

"The installations allow me to share my conceptual thought with a full body experience engaging in the environment I create. As a viewer you can't help but "live with the space" as you are in it, and a part of it.

"This is a very different experience than viewing wall art. With wall art we often engage with a quick view of appreciation within an environment full of other distractions. In today's society, full of technological stimulation, I think it's becoming almost automatic to expect information to just be delivered to you, with little effort. An installation environment is like fully stepping into the mind of the artist and experiencing a concept in all senses."

I could smell the leaves that were scattered across the floor of the Vault Gallery, hear them crunching beneath my boots, feel the warmth of the light that was nestled in the center of the intertwined branches that made up the central sculpture.

Using the amorphic qualities of light and shadow Tessa created as sense of movement within the static space. You could see the work reflected through four "earthly adorned mirrors" that were precisely positioned across from four woodland styled seats.

"The layout of the space created a sort of grid work that exhibited the lighted sculpture at the center of the room. As each person sat in a chair they were positioned to have to see themselves in a mirror across the room. This framed their being as art on the wall and caused them to really look at themselves within the space, as part of the space.

"The lighted sculpture in the center of the room represented fire, warmth, an attractant of community, gathering, and primitive survival. This conceptual fire represents the very origin of life itself.

"Life began billions of years ago due to heat and moisture. Without the heat of the sun molecular life may have never begun in the first place. Also, the branching shadow lines from the central sculpture were worn upon each face like some sort of tribal adornment. I wanted to show humans and nature as one. I wanted to remind people of their dependency on nature; that without it we are nothing."

In her artist's statement, which was hung with the show, Tessa wrote poetically and metaphorically about these concepts:

These woods hold many wise words. If you are quiet and listen, you just might hear truth whisper in your ear. If you close your eyes you just might see the origin of your very existence. Yes it seems true we've been born into some evolutionary prose, but in disorder have forgotten the very root of our dependency. The roots which feed the very breath we so automatically forget…

I honestly had a hard time leaving peacefulness of the room to let others experience the exhibit. I snuck back in several times before reluctantly heading home to my still hectic life.

"The installations aim to offer a reflective and contemplative environment in reflecting on life, spirituality and nature as one interconnected reality. It is my goal to remind people of these essential foundations, to slow societal minds down and to open souls back up."

Tessa works in all different art materials from painting, mixed media, sculpture, jewelry and writing. "Pretty much anything I can get my hands on I consider an art material. I enjoy being a multi-media artist because it allows me to be able to formulate a conceptual idea and then to reach for whatever materials I feel would visually speak my thoughts."

Cape Cod offers the artist a seasonal wealth of inspiration. "Growing up on the Cape I've always had a fondness for the coastline and woodlands of the area. As an observer by nature, I naturally began observing the interconnected growth patterns in the natural world. I developed personal connections to certain conservation areas, beaches and marshes.

"I know that in the fall, if I head to the beginning of Race Lane in Centerville, I can expect to see luminescent yellows and oranges scream out through the surrounding Maple woods. Inside my soul an expected yet yearly surprise gives rise to exuberant deep breaths of inspiration; a fuel to work.

"During the same time of year, the Cedar Swamps of the National Seashore are like a fairy woodland story book. I can't help but delight in the thick green mosses and multi-colored sheddings of the season.

"In winter, I enjoy the peace and quiet, first steps in fallen snow, and the hibernating process of what's to come. Spring, for me, is truly the renewal and birth of the natural world. It mirrors the internal spirit of divine connection to my work and its muse.

"These cycles do something to me. They speak to me in energetic form and cause my thoughts to correspond in their delight. I often contemplate this connection as a sort of divine oneness with all things.

"I realize that not everyone will read into the depth of my thinking, but in engaging with the space I aim for curiosity and playfulness, but also an eeriness and a deep, unidentified feeling. It is these places of curiosity and deep sensation that grows thoughts and sensation both unpredictable and raw. I thoroughly enjoy making people wonder. However, I also thoroughly enjoy explaining."

In addition to creating art, Tessa also teaches a variety of art classes specializing in therapeutic and expressive arts at various organizations and residential facilities such as Riverview School, L.I.F.E. Inc., Esprit, Harbor Point, CapeCodCAN.

"I'd like to inspire young artists out there that they do not need to leave Cape Cod to have a successful art career."

Her art career began with an Associate's Degree in Visual Arts from Cape Cod Community College, then she left the Cape for two years to get her Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Tufts University & the Museum School of Fine Arts Boston. "Cape Cod is my home and a huge part of my work. I was determined to create a successful art career here, and that's what I am doing."

Tessa is currently finishing her second commissioned driftwood mermaid wall sculpture and designs and builds a series of garden gates inspired by her original gate, "Transformative Passage of Earthly Balance" that was originally exhibited at Heritage Museum and Gardens and will be shown at the Hyarts Campus, on South Street, near the Guyer Barn in the summer.

To stay updated on upcoming events and to view Tessa's work visit

To learn more about her classes and teaching methods please visit

You can also follow Tessa on Facebook

Upcoming Exhibits:
Mutual Muses show at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod through April 27
Moving Boundaries at the
Falmouth Arts Center
through April 28
HyArts Artist Shanties at the
Hyannis Harbor July 21 – 27
You can also find Tessa's work at:
Black Crow Gallery, in Mashpee Commons.
Truro Vineyards (I create a variety of items woven from their actual vineyard's vines.)
Current Public Classes:
Teen Art
Black Crow Gallery in Mashpee Commons starting May 1
A Women's Mixed-media Workshop: The Mother of All Creation, The Process
Falmouth Art Center May 10 from 10-2pm Brunch included! Details at the Falmouth Art Center

Tessa D'Agostino

The dances we exhibit within our travels here on this Earth move faster than our perceptions in time. It is important to acknowledge the steps between all levels of life, the spaces in between, and the ever changing growth between ourselves and everything surrounding us at all moments continued. We all wear a crown of infinite growth. Here is mine…

Native to Cape Cod and graduate of the Museum School of Fine Arts Boston and Tufts University, I actively pursue a variety of art mediums as well as artistic outlets in the Cape Cod area. I enjoy navigating through the creative process by the use of unrecognizable shape and form in order to birth a finished piece.

The foundation of my work is strongly based on the constant flow of interconnectedness and how that ongoing bond potentially affects everything. I have a strong relationship with nature which I strive to define within myself through my work.

It is this process that also enables me to explore that spiritual connection with the Earth in hopes of understanding the overall link between man and nature. In theory and personal fascination, man and nature are one combined organism as well as their interconnectedness with the universe. Essentially this concept is endless in itself.

My most recent works have grown to reflect this concept through paintings, sculpture, writing, mixed media and my jewelry line, The Spiral Stone of Cape Cod. Just as all things on this Earth consistently evolve, so does my work.

To see more of my work and to read my personal writings and studies on such concepts please visit my website

I also teach a variety of private and public classes. To learn more about classes being offered and my teaching methods please visit

I am also the Art Director for The Cape Cod Collaborative Arts Network and the artistic lead for the art programs and opportunities they implement in our community for individuals living with disabilities. You'll find over 100 participants in our program exhibiting and selling their art work in a HyArts Shany this June 6th, 7th & 8th. Click here for more information:

Nicola Burnell

Nicola Burnell is the Publisher, Editor and a contributing writer for this magazine. In addition to writing her own novels, she teaches a series of Writing, Creativity Development and Personal Growth Classes. She also works as a freelance editor and a Booktrope Publishing Book Manager.

Nicola is a member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women and is Historian of the Cape Cod Branch. She strives to support the Arts on Cape Cod and collaborates with several cultural organizations in her community.

Nicola lives in Harwich with her two sons and several pets. To contact Nicola email You can also follow her on Twitter and read her blog:
"Nic's Novel Project"