Cecilia Paredes, "Paradise," 2009. Photo-performance with body paint, Lambda print on paper mounted onto aluminum, 39" x 47", ed. of 7.
Curator's Office proudly presents Foto Baroque: Victoria F. Gaitán & Cecilia Paredes. Both photographers in this exhibition seduce the viewer with a wealth of rich color, ornamentation, and drama associated with traditional baroque style. Both artists draw the viewer into a lush personal landscape that is alluring at first but far from Eden. The women inhabiting these images invite us to examine their strained identities embedded within the lovely façades.
Victoria F. Gaitán's Sweet Meats series is simultaneously sensual and unsettling. Characterized by the over-abundance of earthly delights often found in the Flemish Baroque Dutch Golden Age still life paintings, the images depict the rich colors and textures of food overflowing on the table and from the mouths of the female subjects themselves. Gaitán juxtaposes a surfeit of alluring earthly treats with a morbid reminder of their ephemeral nature. She conjures an insistent but unattainable desire, a feeling enmeshed with the eating disorders these photographs also call to mind. Gaitán's women appear compelled to binge, smeared with the sugary goo they are consuming to excess. They are confrontational in their performative awareness; their expressive eyes directly meet our own amidst the beautiful wreckage of indulgence and ornament. Still, despite this explicit point of contact, we are uncertain whether the women are confident exhibitionists or pleading victims.
While the women in Gaitán's photos present themselves boldly and frontally, glowing against the darkness behind them, Paredes attempts self-camouflage within two-dimensional, florally patterned planes as the subject of the "photo-performances" in her Skin Deep series. As with Gaitán's images, these too hold a fragile duality. Paredes chooses her own quiet concealment, yet the relentless embellishments also threaten to trap or absorb her entirely. Here the artist offers herself as both portrait and non-portrait. She emerges as she disappears in her skillful striving for a surface harmony, existing so much as a part of her surroundings that, for brief moments, she ceases to exist as herself at all. The photographs evoke Ana Mendieta's Silueta series, in which we sometimes find the artist camouflaged by mud or laying naked on the earth with a partial cover of white flowers. Like Mendieta, Paredes has relocated extensively throughout her life and acknowledges thi s experience as influential on her theme of assimilation in a variety of locales.
Gaitán and Paredes expertly engage with opulent settings that fill the frame to excess. They simultaneously control their surroundings carefully yet struggle to maintain that control as boundaries are blurred between self and object. Catering equally to lavish beauty and the threat of being overwhelmed, both artists evoke the baroque theatre as a natural metaphoric space to play out the drama of a complex and fluctuating feminine identity.
There will be an opening reception on Wednesday, November 10 from 6 – 8. Artists in attendance.