Em­pow­ered Nar­ra­tives

American Art Collector - - Contents - HARMONIA ROSALES

As a young girl vis­it­ing the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, Harmonia Rosales found a deep con­nec­tion with fine art. How­ever, she was also dis­con­nected from the works be­cause the peo­ple por­trayed in the paint­ings were not like her—they were pri­mar­ily white men and stereo­typed women. Rosales, an Afro-Cuban Amer­i­can, has set out to bring a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion to art his­tory by reimag­in­ing the nar­ra­tive in a con­tem­po­rary con­text. The re­sult is art­work that breaks pre­con­ceived no­tions to pro­mote and em­power women.

In her up­com­ing solo ex­hi­bi­tion, New World Con­scious­ness, at RJD Gallery in Bridge­hamp­ton, New York, be­gin­ning Septem­ber 8, Rosales will fo­cus on the du­al­ity of Vir­gin Mary—the chaste and ide­al­ized woman—and Eve—the dis­obe­di­ent be­ing. The pieces also par­al­lel the never-end­ing jour­neys and chal­lenges that life brings.

On view will be por­traits ti­tled af­ter the sea­sons, but sym­bol­iz­ing the sea­sons of life, and multi-fig­ure paint­ings that the por­traits can be paired with be­cause they rep­re­sent the same ideas through iconog­ra­phy. “You see Eve’s story, which is a woman’s story,” says Rosales.

In the pieces Spring and The Birth of Eve, Rosales presents the idea of birth in all its forms. It can be the phys­i­cal birth of a child or it can be the birth of a new ex­pe­ri­ence. “Spring shows the be­gin­ning of that chal­lenge,” she ex­plains. “It can be the birth of an idea, the birth of some­thing that’s hap­pen­ing in your life. I’ve lived so many lives in my life­time, and I’ve ac­quired more knowl­edge to con­quer the next chal­lenge. You can see [birth] as chal­lenges—some­times you have pu­berty, you have work, you have other things.”

Rosales ex­plains The Birth of Eve, de­pict­ing a woman and child sur­rounded by a wreath of col­or­ful flow­ers, can sym­bol­ize the birth of in­no­cence. On the sur­face, it has the bright and beau­ti­ful blooms, but if you look deeper you will no­tice in­sects and the cherubs act­ing as pro­tec­tors. “It’s beau­ti­ful, but cau­tion­ary,” de­scribes the artist. “It’s the be­gin­ning and the end in a sense. Eve is both the mother and the child.”

Works such as Sum­mer and An­nun­ci­a­tion of a Woman are the next phase of the cy­cle when a per­son is fig­ur­ing out their path. Both paint­ings have a de­pic­tion of a snake. In the bi­b­li­cal story of Adam and Eve the snake is the crea­ture that con­vinced Eve to eat the for­bid­den fruit and pass it along to Adam, which gave them knowl­edge that stripped their in­no­cence. The pieces also show the

for­bid­den fruit as a fig, and while what ex­act fruit it is meant to be is un­known, Rosales says stat­ues in Rome of the sub­ject are cov­ered with the fig leaf.

“The fig in any of my paint­ings is not nec­es­sar­ily bad,” Rosales says, “but it’s that fear of do you want to be bliss­fully ig­no­rant or be strong and ac­quire wis­dom and knowl­edge.”

An­nun­ci­a­tion of a Woman rep­re­sents the shift into wom­an­hood. “The angel is giv­ing her an ankh, which means a life. It’s bless­ing her with the abil­ity to cre­ate life,” Rosales ex­plains. “What I wanted to put out there is, again, not so much giv­ing phys­i­cal birth but ac­quir­ing that re­spon­si­bil­ity. What are you do­ing to put your­self out there and use your tal­ent, and how are you go­ing to use your voice or speech to con­trib­ute to your com­mu­nity for the bet­ter?

“In an essence we all need to work to­gether; that is why Eve is every­one,” she con­tin­ues. “I put a lit­tle bit of me in there with the African di­as­pora, but it is women in gen­eral. We have to stick to­gether and work to­gether and pro­mote equal­ity with­out hav­ing to, in a sense, cover up our fem­i­nin­ity.”

Life con­tin­ues to Fall and The Har­vest, which show the woman at her peak of knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing— when she is able to teach oth­ers. In Fall, the woman stands in profile—dis­tinct from both Spring and Sum­mer where she stares di­rectly at the viewer. She is, as Rosales ex­plains, “look­ing on­ward and not look­ing to you for di­rec­tion.” The Har­vest is a de­pic­tion of Rosales’ vi­sion of Mother Africa, where she is teach­ing the next gen­er­a­tion. “[There is one child] who is ac­quir­ing knowl­edge with the snake, an­other hold­ing on to in­no­cence in terms of the bro­ken pearls. They kind of all re­flect some form of the stages of life.”

New World Con­scious­ness will hang through Oc­to­ber 5.

1An­nun­ci­a­tion of a Woman, oil and metal­lic gold on linen, 42 x 52"

4Sum­mer, oil and metal­lic gold on linen, 24 x 24"

2The Birth of Eve, oil and metal­lic gold on linen,48 x 40"3Fall, oil and metal­lic gold on linen,24 x 24"

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