by Kevin Fitzmaurice
World-renowned National Geographic Photographer Cary Wolinsky attended a retirement party for George Greenamyer at the Massachusetts College of Art. White bearded Greenamyer is a sculptor who was typically dressed in overalls and good friend of Wolinsky. During the event Wolinsky had noticed Greenamyer walk in, then a second, then a third. Surprisingly, though, it was not party spirits obstructing his vision. Rather, it was three identical sisters by the names of Sara, Kelly and Alicia Casilio who were art students of Greenamyer. The three came to the party dressed to impersonate the sculptor, turning heads and raising laughter. Attracted to the three sister’s persona, Wolinsky envisioned working with them. Cary Wolinsky later proposed to meet and discuss a potential artistic collaborative with the Casilios. His notion was successful, and the Casilio sisters now work side by side with Cary Wolinsky in an artist group called TRIIIBE. From 2006-2010, Wolinsky photographed the triplets to create the art exhibition known as TRIIIBE: same difference. Their mind bending and identity pondering artwork is now on view at the Fitchburg Art Museum (FAM). An exhibit that allows viewers to tap into their own prejudices and explore their own identities, TRIIIBE: same difference is one not to miss. In addition, the artwork of these triplets and Wolinsky challenges mainstream ideas of politics, religion, gender, and social norms.
FAM hosted TRIIIBE’s Artist Talk about this exhibition in April, 2016. Confident in his words, Cary Wolinsky spoke highly about the Casilio sisters. He elaborated how Sara, Kelly and Alicia are always brave and willing to work together to create breakthroughs in their conceptual art. Ultimately, this praise of his emphasized how untypical these identical triplets actually are. Kelly Casilio spoke for herself and her sisters when she said, “growing up separately would have made us more alike.” The sisters searched for their own identities in high school, each claiming a different style. Kelly was Goth, Alicia was Hippie, and Sara was Punk. No matter how hard they tried to be individual, they were still labeled as a “Casilio”. They always grabbed great attention, even when just simply walking together. The sisters eventually gave in, and embraced this illusion by incorporating it into TRIIIBE’s art as we see it today. When Kelly, Sara, and Alicia are seen on their own, you may have no idea that they share the same face. Their face is one of the few things these sisters have in common, and they remain individual rather than a set when they are together.
TRIIIBE’s earlier work features performance art videos protesting topics such as the Iraq war, as seen in “Inch by Inch”. Also, the mortgage crisis of 2008 is reflected in their video “Bailouts and Bonuses”, which features the sisters dressed as bankers panhandling on Wall Street. Yari Wolinsky, Cary’s son, filmed both performances. The three also conducted an experiment that reflects stereotypes and gender roles in society. Each of the sisters dressed in clothes that had a style differing from one another. TRIIIBE then visited a bar to engage with the public. They performed this experiment to see how the audience would react to each of the opposing styles of the sisters, as seen in their photo “Compatibility Quiz”. One of the sisters mentioned, “there is no limit to illusion, people are sensitive to the way we look.”
After the artist talk I was able to talk one on one with Alicia Casilio about the exhibit. I asked her what it was like to play so many diverse characters and roles. She mentioned getting involved in a different setting all comes down to the different outfits the sisters wore for each photograph. Alicia felt as though once they put costumes on that’s when it all became real. For TRIIIBE, there is no process of deciding which sister plays which character because they each wanted to try different things. Kelly more often plays male roles in TRIIIBE’s work, Alicia admits. Each sister likes to take on different personas and not one is afraid to do so. Alicia raved about FAM when she talked about what her favorite part of the exhibit was. She appreciates FAM’s work, and said the way everything in the exhibit is laid out and strategically placed is so powerful. The triptych room, for example, gives you a whole play on religion.
Through their entire creative process, TRIIIBE changed roles and became vocal to one another. Their personalities really helped take on different tasks within the projects. There was never one set job for one set person. Rather, they all had a wide range of skills and were willing to work with one another, being one of the biggest benefits of being a triplet. The sisters have a best friend at all times, and a really great support group.
The most recent photograph by TRIIIBE featured in TRIIIBE: same difference is “Unnamed.” This photo shows dyed cloth, which was loosely woven into a tapestry. Poking through the tapestry’s openings are facial features of Casilio family member’s such as eyes and a mouth. The group touched on this piece a bit at their artist talk, and explained its meaning as an “identity of a life unformed”. It was a project Kelly Casilio had worked on while she was pregnant, and represents the idea of the unknown. As for what TRIIIBE is working on next, the sisters are independently pursuing their own projects. At the moment, there is no collaborative work is in the making. TRIIIBE did, however, talk about the intriguing idea of body parts as art, and exploring their own interest and curiosity within the notion of the body as an art object. A great example of this is “Red Delicious”. The photo was interestingly created and features body parts. The group also touched a bit on the idea of plastic sculptures. Though it is not definite, it is possible for this to be a new direction for TRIIIBE work, and worth keeping an eye out for. The exhibit will be on display at the Fitchburg Art Museum until June 5th, 2016.
* The name TRIIIBE derives from an email address the sisters once used. I then added “@samedifference” for the reader to understand this was an article about the exhibit TRIIIBE: same difference.