Monday, April 04, 2016

Teresa Oaxaca at The Art League

Many years ago, I was at the old Washington Post building meeting with the then WaPo Chief Art Critic. He was going through dozens and dozens of postcards and letters (this was at the dawn of the email age), and he'd glance at them, and then drop them into a waste basket... there was a 99% rejection rate at first glance. I sat there, a little hypnotized by the sad reality of the event.

Years later, after having written about DMV area artists for almost three decades, like most art critics, writers and symbiots of the visual arts, I am also now bombarded with emails, news releases, post cards, letters (yep! old fashion snail mail) and other assorted paraphernalia designed to let me know that an artist is showing somewhere.

And like most people and that former WaPo art critic, time management is a delicate issue, and thus over the years I’m fairly sure that I’ve actually only seen about 1% of the shows that I have actually been interested in, or which have caught my attention.

A while back, one of those shows which snared my interest was an embassy show by a “new” – or at least new to me – artist whose work (at least online) seemed to be quite good.

 It wasn’t just that it “looked” quite good because of the subject matter (it did), or that it looked like the artist had some really good painting skills (it did), or even because it was eye catching in a different frequency from most works (it was) that I would usually be exposed to.

And thus, I decided to pay a visit to this embassy show (these days it involves arranging for baby sitters, planning the drive, and there's very little room for error, etc.), and to say that the work at the embassy show floored me is an understatement.

In fact, it forced me to put my nose close to the canvas; it forced me to step backwards and far away to see how the tight compositions worked together; and it even scratched my inner eye and forced me to look around to ensure that I hadn’t been transported to the past, or perhaps to the future of contemporary realism.

Teresa Oaxaca was the artist, and her paintings and etchings were the subject that dazzled my eyes, seduced my imagination, punched the solar plexus of my mind, and filled my curiosity with inquiries about all that revolved around the paradox-filled universe of this "new to me" artist.

"Pursuit" by Teresa Oaxaca
Oil on canvas with artist-made frame

Oaxaca... and this is clear to the most casual observer, and even clearer to someone who has seen the works of thousands and thousands of painters, is an artist with formidable painting skills.

Her energetic brushwork and fearless attitude towards an aggressive employment of color should be the first chapter in the lesson book to anyone aspiring to pick up a brush and apply anything to a canvas.

Look at the apple in "Pursuit."

It's not the brilliance of the fruit that makes it sing with erotic gusto; in fact it is too shiny - it is like a waxed fruit, prepared to sensualize the first bite by first decorating the visual senses.

It is not its stylized perfect shape, also designed to capture our human check points from the times that we shared the planet with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

It is in fact, those two delicate touches of white paint on the fruit, and it is also the manner in which the cloth caresses the fruit.

Oaxaca’s paintings and prints are at first sight a prism focusing the refracted colors back in time; or are they? To the fantasist, they could also be the work of an artist who has been traveling from a Victorian era to the present; or is it a future time traveler, bathing in the luxuries of the Baroque period, sending us her impressions from her latest voyage to the past?

Whatever the answer, the DMV gets an expanded opportunity to see her work, as her second solo exhibit at The Art League in Alexandria, “Misfits”, will be on view April 6-May 1, 2016.

According to The Art League’s news release, the show “explores the themes of clowns and dolls, human effigies, and painted faces, integrating human emotions and passions with allegorical storytelling. Oaxaca’s style has greatly grown and evolved since her first solo exhibit at The Art League in 2010. She’s interested in breaking the boundaries of traditional realism, and is succeeding through her choice of subject matter, compositional choices, and painterly style.”

Since I’ve just discovered this painter, I have no idea what her first solo show was about, but I suspect that it was but a bridge to her most recent work. Make no mistake, this is an artist who is deeply embedded in the world that she depicts through her art; she lives in that world.

“My work is about pleasing the eye. I paint light and the way it falls. Simple observation reveals beauty, which I often find in the unconventional. Because of this, I have learned to take particular delight in unusual pairings of subject matter,” she notes.

In that previously discussed apple, there are hours of work, but it is the final two applications of white which seal the deal.

"Laughing Queen" by Teresa Oaxaca
Oil on canvas with artist-made frame

 60" x 40"
Oaxaca’s compositions are described as spontaneous. “When a person comes to me, they occupy a space in my mind. Arrangements form from there until I excitedly see and conceive the idea for the piece. The design is both planned and subconscious. For this reason, I surround myself with Victorian and Baroque costumes, bones, and other things in which I find fascinating. I want subject matter to always be at hand, always around me.”

All of Oaxaca’s paintings will be shown within unique frames that the artist designed, built, and painted herself. She feels that the individually designed frames truly complete the one-of-a-kind piece.

Do not miss this show... More later.

Update: Ms. Oaxaca will be doing a demo in the Art League Gallery on the 13th and they will be live streaming on their YouTube channel: