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Leah Gallant | The Birdsell Project

Leah Gallant

‘Zano with Veins’ is a living reliquary based on a sign imbedded in the ceiling above the arch structure. The sign, part of it rendered illegible, reads ‘Vannon / Sons.’ I researched businesses with similar names and found that it was a sign for Vannoni & Sons, a local construction company that specialized in concrete basements in the South Bend area. I met with members of the Vannoni family at their home in Mishawaka and took a scrap of soap, a piece of toilet paper, a tissue, water from their faucet, and blades of grass from their front yard. I then encased these objects in ice, which hang suspended from the ceiling, melting into a series of aquaducts that connect to others built under preexisting leaks, thus channeling the essence of the Vannonis and returning it into the space.

The primary influence for this project is material culture studies, which focuses on the origins, uses, and shifting cultural practices around particular objects. But while object biographies demystify their subjects for a wider audience, ‘Zano with Veins’ references the sign’s origins only to obscure them. It employs none of the conventional modes of documentation: no photographs of the Vannoni family, no oral history, no information on the company or the sign itself. Instead of the objective narrator of the social sciences, or the formal reflexivity of the diligent anthropologist, the work implies artist-as-acolyte, research-as-cult.


Leah Gallant is a Boston-based artist and writer. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2015 with a double major in Studio Art and Sociology/Anthropology.

Zano with Vains