Women by Women 2020: Grace and Power
SoLA Contemporary, Los Angeles
through March 7th
Written by Genie Davis
With Women by Women 2020: Depictions and Interpretations by Greater Los Angeles Women, curated by Sharon Allicotti with curatorial advisor Fatemeh Burnes, SoLA Contemporary presents a diverse, exciting, and beautiful collection. 30 artists offer 40 images that are both stirring and evocative. The figurative exhibition includes work by Allicotti, Chloe Allred, Jodi Bonassi, Kaleeka Bond, Ada Pullini Brown, Leslie Brown, Therese Conte, Lani Emanuel, Zara Monet Feeney, Melanie Florio, Ashley Gardner, Candice Gawne, Ja’Rie Gray, DJ Hall, Lanise Howard, Regina Jacobson, Linsley Lambert, Margaret Lazzari, Lucinda Luvaas, Aline Mare, Judy Nimtz, Aihua Pearce, Serena Potter, Hope Railey, Linda Santana, Betty Shelton, Cynthia Sitton, Ondy Sweetman, Cynda Valle and Ruth Weisburg.
The show debuted January 18th, marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. It’s an appropriate date, given works that evoke persistence, strength, vulnerability, and power.
The exhibition focuses on the human figure, providing rich storytelling in images that reveal a wide range of female identity and women-driven issues that include gender and racial discrimination.
The works include mixed media, paintings, and photographic art that delves deeply into the heart and soul of the female – and the human — spirit. Each work is unique and bold, not a small feat by any measure. That boldness is evident in story, in vivid palette, in the gaze of a painting’s protagonist – and often in all three. Richness of approach and an internal vibrancy are compelling throughout this show.
Lanise Howard’s large-scale oil on canvas, “As April Looked Back, She Realized Her Weakness Had Become Her Strength,” is glowing with self-realization and determination; the woman’s blue robe evokes the mystical, with stars and moons as well as floral shapes; but her face is rooted in the reality of acknowledgement. Around her, the background appears as a halo of almost holy light; directly around her head, a corona of digital pixels further halos her, seeding the idea that she is coming into full self-power.
Aline Mare’s 2010 figurative image, “Kaili,” from the artist’s Seeing the Light series, is a radiant archival digital print featuring a young girl framed by sparkler candles – a tribute to a life force that is just beginning. Mare’s more recent work, “Spider Webbed,” taken from her Requiem: Aching for Acker series, combines both photographic and painted images on metal for a delicate, haunting work that uses both detailed figuration and the abstract, and serves as an allegory for both life’s impermanence and resonant memory.
Zara Monet Feeney’s “Reductive Overture” is an oil-on-canvas rhapsody of blue fusion, featuring two faceless female bodies, an image that seems to waver as if mutable, reminding the viewer of both water and visualized music.
Jodi Bonassi offers gorgeous images of community, lush and crowded canvasses that tell a story of life that embodies magical realism with grace and passion. Hers is a robust universe of both corporeal women and the fanciful spirit within them. In her 30 x 40 “Arts District,” the oil on canvas images are both dreamlike and grounded in urban experience, one in which a smaller figure holds a sign aloft that admonishes the viewer to “Make Art.” It is a beautiful cornucopia packed with radiant life.
Ada Pullini Brown offers a glowing portrait in “Living Veiled.” Here, Brown allows a woman’s eyes to tell her story. Her face is mostly hidden behind her hijab, with a lush lapis lazuli background behind her. Framed in gold, the image evokes that of a 14th century icon.
In many of the works, there is a glow, defiant, hopeful, or illuminating. In Serena Potter’s golden and brown, perfect candle-lit image of a woman dining solo in front of a looming scale, eyes cast down at her empty bowl, the glow of those candles stands out despite the judgement of the monolithic scale and the self-deprivation on the menu. Cynda Valle’s pixie-cut portrait of a woman in a rich, royal, multi-colored patterned robe is posed against a fiery golden sky, a contrast to the silhouette of a laundry line prosaically behind her.
Another common feature in the exhibition is the direct gaze in a variety of pieces, a look that is both intimate and challenging. There is Betty Shelton’s young blue-eyed girl, one arm behind her back, “Magdalena in Salamanca,” looking at us, asking neither approval or acceptance, seemingly aware of our gaze. Curator Sharon Allicotti gives us another remarkable image “Side View Mirror,” revealing a woman’s appraising gaze through that mirror, around her a sweeping view of a stark Western landscape under a sullen but magnificent sky. This is the gaze of freedom, hard won; of a journey, gloriously undertaken.
In Women by Women 2020, there are many artists’ journeys so share – on view through March 7th.