Ghouls gone wild


Pasatiempo - - CONTENT - Jen­nifer Levin I The New Mex­i­can

Dark, sur­real, and mys­ti­cally in­spired work by an ar­ray of fe­male artists is on view in Pop Femme Sugar Coated Strange 2015, open­ing at Pop Gallery on Fri­day, Oct. 30. Day of the Dead skele­tons min­gle with de­mons winged and horned, fan­tas­ti­cal an­i­mals, and ro­man­tic women in red, as well as other wild imag­in­ings from the minds of women who pre­fer the oth­er­worldly. A por­tion of the pro­ceeds from sales ben­e­fits South­west CARE Cen­ter. On the cover is Kris­ten Mar­giotta’s Spi­der­ess (2015, oil on hard­board).

ever there were a per­fect im­age for late Oc­to­ber in New Mex­ico, it is Ana Rivera’s Homage to

Georgia O’Ke­effe, in which the iconic artist is ren­dered in pen­cil as a Day of the Dead skele­ton, dressed in a wide-brimmed black hat and black coat. Be­hind her is a sil­hou­ette of a cow skull par­tially filled with clouds, a hy­brid of two ma­jor themes in O’Ke­effe’s work. It’s a hu­mor­ous piece; nonethe­less, O’Ke­effe’s gaze is eerily sad and pen­e­trat­ing, as though she would grab a brush be­tween her fin­ger bones and paint you if she weren’t well aware that the dead can’t paint. She is both a cartoon and a re­al­is­ti­cally drawn ghost or ghoul.

The piece is part of Santa Fe na­tive Rivera’s Muerte se­ries, se­lec­tions from which are in­cluded in Pop Femme Sugar Coated Strange 2015, open­ing at Pop Gallery on Fri­day, Oct. 30. The show fea­tures an ar­ray of fe­male artists — in­clud­ing Jenny Berry, Marie Sena, Tammi Otis, Phre­sha LeVan­dale, Kris­ten Mar­giotta, Kate Sa­muels, Brenda Dunn, June Valen­tine Ruppe, and Zoe Wil­liams — whose work tends to­ward the dark, sur­real, and mys­ti­cal.

Rivera told Pasatiempo that most Day of the Dead art­work she sees tends to be brightly col­ored and fun, but she was in­ter­ested in mak­ing se­ri­ous por­traits of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures from the art world us­ing the big heads and eyes com­mon to skele­tons and sugar skulls cre­ated for the two-day Mex­i­can hol­i­day that cel­e­brates an­ces­tors and de­ceased loved ones and starts Nov. 1. She has drawn Edgar Al­lan Poe, Ed­ward Gorey, René Magritte, and Sal­vador Dalí as well as sev­eral ver­sions of Frida Kahlo. In Mi Amor, Mi Corazón,

Mi Diego, the bot­tom half of Kahlo’s skele­ton is an or­nate cage on wheels, in­side which floats the head and heart of her hus­band, Diego Rivera. Many of the

Muerte draw­ings fea­ture a quote from the sub­ject, as in the words be­hind O’Ke­effe, which read, in part, “I have things in my head that are not like what any­one has taught me.” Rivera heard the quote in an in­ter­view with O’Ke­effe that she found on YouTube and lis­tened

to while she worked on the draw­ing. “I was never re­ally too deep into O’Ke­effe, but when I watched that, some­thing just clicked. I re­ally con­nected with that quote. I have it in my kitchen,” she said. Rivera is a self-taught artist who had trou­ble as a kid get­ting her ele­men­tary and high school art teach­ers to un­der­stand what she wanted to learn. “I wanted to get every­thing down on pa­per that I had a vi­sion of, but a lot of them couldn’t help me.”

Berry ran into sim­i­lar stum­bling blocks in the 1980s when she was in art school, an era when paint­ing had been de­clared dead. Her sur­real, fig­u­ra­tive work was so out of fash­ion that she went into com­mer­cial art un­til sev­eral years ago, when she no­ticed the emer­gence of New Brow, a sort of graf­fiti-, tat­too-, and street-art-in­spired take on pop art sprin­kled with so­cial com­men­tary. Berry paints in a va­ri­ety of dis­tinct styles, all of which are in­cluded in the Pop Gallery show. She recre­ates the works of old masters but adds a dark twist by turn­ing the finely cos­tumed sub­jects into an­i­mals. In The Plague Doc­tor, she has recre­ated Rem­brandt’s Por­trait of Maerten Sool­mans as a wood stork — a bird that spends time on her

lawn in Florida. In­stead of a glove, Berry’s beaked Sool­mans holds a plague mask like the kind worn by doc­tors in the 17th cen­tury. The mask it­self strongly re­sem­bles the face of the wood stork. Her other works in the show in­clude Fall­ing, To Have and to Hold, and

Kit­sune, all of which fea­ture a model in a some­what sul­try, fem­i­nine pose. In Kit­sune, which takes its name from Ja­panese folk­lore about foxes that shape-shift into women, a model in Day of the Dead makeup and black lace tights perches at the edge of a chair. A fox rests next to her on a ta­ble, like a witch’s fa­mil­iar. “A friend lent me the taxi­dermy fox, and it was stolen from my stu­dio,” Berry said. “The dis­ap­pear­ing fox, the woman — it re­minded me of that mythol­ogy.”

Duende, by Sena, is a por­trait of a woman in the tra­di­tional New Mex­i­can style of Catholic iconog­ra­phy, ex­cept that the sub­ject has a third eye in her fore­head — which in some spir­i­tual tra­di­tions, such as Hin­duism, rep­re­sents the ajna, or brow, chakra.

is a Span­ish word that Sena ex­plained means “kind of the ul­ti­mate pin­na­cle of find­ing an artis­tic sweet spot, or some kind of nir­vana-like feel­ing, like when you’re lis­ten­ing to incredible mu­sic — this incredible crescendo of some­thing artis­tic. When I was paint­ing her, I thought the third eye is what we are all try­ing to find, our path­way to some­thing be­yond the veil, some­thing we can’t see but that we have to tap into. Ev­ery once in a while we catch a glimpse, and that’s duende.”

Sena grew up in Santa Fe and be­gan ex­hibit­ing at Span­ish Mar­ket as a teenager. She now lives in Dal­las and runs her own tat­too stu­dio. Many of her tat­toos seem in­spired by old graphic de­sign and ad­ver­tis­ing il­lus­tra­tions, and they have a depth of de­tail and rich­ness of color that must take great pa­tience both to cre­ate and to en­dure the cre­ation of. She also works in med­i­cal illustration, of­ten for sur­gi­cal text­books, and has been com­bin­ing th­ese two skills into tat­toos for women who have had mas­tec­tomies — not fan­tas­ti­cal images to cover scars but, for in­stance, re­al­is­tic are­o­las on women who have had to have theirs re­moved. She also works in wa­ter­color, gouache, and pen and ink; many of th­ese works, in­cluded in the Pop show, are of de­mon fig­ures and other dark reli­gious im­agery. She has al­ways been steeped in an old-timey sen­si­bil­ity, whether or not she’s work­ing on tra­di­tional pieces. “I’m not re­ally in­ter­ested in the new or gleamy and shin­ing,” Sena said. “The pre­cious things to me have been around for a long time. When I paint some­thing, I don’t think it’s done un­less it’s al­most an­tiqued in a way. I want it to look like it’s been through years of sit­ting in some­one’s li­brary, like it’s seen some things.”

Zoe Wil­liams: Ta­mandu, 2015, mixed-me­dia fiber sculp­ture; left, Tammi Otis: The Spar­row

ybil, 2015, oil on gold-leaf panel; ppo­site page, left, Jenny Berry:

Be­trothed, 2015, oil on panel; right, Ana Rivera: Homage to Georgia

O’Ke­effe, 2015, graphite on pa­per

June Valen­tine-Ruppe: Quasi­modo with Money, 2015, oil on panel

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