Adeola Davies-Aiyeloja Bring a Positive Pause
Metro Gallery, Pomona
Through November 30, 2022
Written by Genie Davis
Adeola Davies-Aiyeloja has created a stunning, motion filled, vividly colored body of work that is a celebration of life, the vicissitudes of the body, and the triumph of the spirit. Working in mixed media, primarily digital assemblage here, her solo exhibition at Metro Gallery in Pomona, Unexpected Expectations of Men-O-Pause, vibrated with emotion, passion, and fierce experience. If menopause itself is a rite of passage, so too is Davies-Aiyeloja’s work, which allows viewers to pass through this time and emerge with new respect, knowledge, and succor.
In “Tango Yin Yang Hot Flash,” Davis-Aiyeloja creates a swirling dance, kinetically alive with red, white, and a rich periwinkle that recalls both the impulses within the body as well as depicting a dance between two impressionistic halves of a woman, perhaps divided by body and soul, or the time during and after a hot flash. Here, as throughout the exhibition, the central figure depicted is the artist herself.
“Relief Meditation” is equally ephemeral in quality, transparent and glowing, rather like viewing the movement of colorful jelly fish at an aquarium. Here, a woman is partially seated, partially kneeling, with an ephemeral swirl of opalescent colors rising around and above her, a kind of aurora borealis of spirit. Within those colors, a ghostly couple emanate, one with bowed head.
In “Making It Through Hills and Valleys,” a transparent image of the artist steps amid trees and a cosmic sky, her dress flowing around her. It is a walk of triumph, destiny, purpose, and angels.
Much more defined, both literally and figuratively, is “The Red Fan.” Here, Davis-Aiyeloja’s face is fully realized, positioned between two spread red fans. A larger, considerably fainter, transparent woman, who appears sculptural in nature, floats ethereally behind and over her. This is the female essence, the red fans symbolic of both menstruation and menopause, the fluctuating rhythms of the body. The more corporeal face depicting the artist herself represents the body, the transparent one, the essence or soul.
“In the Hands of My Sisters,” offers a central female figure, one arm raised in a beckoning, welcoming greeting – an accepting gesture, as well – encircled partially by the shadows of three other women, arms upraised, and partially by feathery and tall pines and their shadow. On the ground on which she stands, there is a shadowy stencil in a flowered pattern. The pattern evokes mystic tattoos and seems to indicate a safe or protected spot. This is one of the most serene images in this exhibition, one of succor and perhaps enlightenment, as well as acceptance. Here, she appears to be saying, is safe passage, comfort, and support.
Also serene is “Nature’s Solace” in which semi-translucent hands are raised in supplication, illuminated with light, over a stunning background of pink and green leaves and flowers.
Along with her own visual art, Davies-Aiyeloja has included the words of over seventy contributing women who participated in the exhibition by sharing their own narratives. Some of these are imprinted over graceful cyanotypes that excerpt the contributed words.
Using a requested quote on the menopause experience sent to the artist, words are superimposed over the image of trees within a furious, almost wounded swirl of blue in the cyanotype “Menopause Interpretation Series 1.” The quote includes “One slight stressed thought and I felt I was part tree… the fire rose up through the trunk and out of the top…” A woman with upraised arms with a reverse image of a praying deity-like figure forms the background to another such submitted quote in “Menopause Interpretation Series 5,” in which the quote describes a “horrifying” experience with menopause and prays that “every woman pays attention to her body.”
Other quoted remarks are hung from a series of ropes that recall a loom or pasted around the shape of a dressmaker’s dummy. This reference to textiles, and that which is conventionally considered a female practice, adds additional resonance of the show.
The exhibition overall does more than “break the silence” surrounding menopause, it also elevates it: the suffering many endure, the joy of perseverance, the relief of passage, the profound nature of time, the body, and the female, and all that these bring to the cycle of life and human existence. While the focus is on demystifying menopause, the exhibition is also a celebration, due to both the art making and the subject, as well as to the joyous quality that Davies-Aiyeloja herself exhibits in her overall work.