Wit and Meditation at the Gomez Gallery

by Louise Sheldon
       Luscious red lips, pearly white teeth clamped on a tart green pepper—it’s hard to believe that this huge photo-poster was created to represent the colors of the Mexican flag; not so hard to believe when you meet Lilili, a buoyant and witty photographer from Mexico City whose works were on view throughout January at Gomez Gallery, along with those of two other artists.

       Lilili’s photos symbolize the condition of mankind, as viewed by the artist, in an unusual variety of ways. The succulent, ripe fruits and vegetables of her country are the props for human heads and figures and indeed they comprise the essence of Lilili’s elusive artistry, which combines obvious, sometimes comic, elements with the profound. Some of her female models photographed from the rear wear fruits in their upswept coiffures as ornaments that tell of the woman’s character; for example, the one sprouting strawberries is vaunting her twelve children.

       Lilili targets the pervasive pressure of male machismo by photographing a necklace of chunky new potatoes representing the burden of the woman who wears it. Another woman’s arms create a seductively closed triangle, for the woman looks to the inner life; a man’s hefty chest (inflated with hubris perhaps?) creates the corresponding open, upturned triangle, for his life revolves around the outside world.

       Small-boned, slender, cosmopolitan, Lilili herself is the best introduction to her artworks. Who else but Lilili would imagine a female head on a cabbage leaf as an interpretation of Botticelli’s “Venus” or a naked Adam sitting on a plump fruit (the world, he is master of), while Eve photographed from the rear with a large root vegetable slung over her shoulders. These superbly sharp images, with their curvaceous nudes and luscious fruit, exude sensuality that is heightened by monochrome backgrounds in glowing neon hues.

       In another photograph, a rising pyramid of children’s hands clutch at an ear of maiz (com), the staple of the Mexican diet, for it is maiz of which they are fashioned and not clay, says Lilili. A person’s spirit in the form of a swirling head of lettuce leaves flies from upturned hands; another hand seen clutching at the air is duplicated by the shape of knobby roots behind it, attesting to the individual’s courage, determination and strength.

       The pièce de résistance of Lilili’s work is surely the small naked boy, his upstretched arms shod with banana leaves, posed, with a beatific, if worried look, as “The Annunciation Angel.”

Bombay Painter’s Works

       The large central room at Gomez was devoted to the paintings of Dhruvi Acharya, an Indian painter from Bombay, who has studied with noted Baltimore artist Grace Hartigan and now resides near New York. These large, unframed canvases depict in swooping outlines, reminiscent of Hartigan, somber Indian ladies seated in the Lotus position and surrounded by the artifacts and attributes of their homes—family members, servants, a lotus pond, Bombay skyscrapers in silhouette.

       Like Lilili’s photographs, Acharya’s works appeal on two levels. There is humor in the gossiping ladies with their curious sideways glances, the computers and television sets floating through the air. Yet the central figure gazes serenely ahead, her mind focused in observation and meditation, simultaneously communicating by thought with those around her as well as with the ancient gods of India’s 5000-year-old culture.

       These images, painted in muted, earthy tones have a tapestry-like quality resembling printed India cottons whose colors have been subdued by many washings and the nostalgia with which the artist views her former life.

       Dhruvi Acharya, a delicate flower of a woman with luminous dark eyes, has portrayed herself as one (or perhaps all) of her seated women—pregnant and full of life, as she herself is, as tranquil yet glowing as the lotus in ponds she has painted. She states that she is not a practicing Hindu but that, like all Hindus, she accepts and is fascinated by many philosophies.

Rubeck’s Work Has Changed

       The third artist at the Gomez Gallery exhibition is native Baltimorean Shari Wechsler Rubeck, whose work has changed since I last reported on her in this column in June 1999.

       Rubeck’s humorous circus scenes have been replaced by large oil paintings of a female clown figure in a flouncey, low-cut gown. With her sad eyes, protruding ears and half smile, her head held at rakish angles, the clown, who wears a crown, attempts many activities—clutching a deer, riding a bike, dancing wildly. In one painting, the figure has the hooves of a horse.

       The artist has splashed white paint on the backgrounds allowing rivulets to trickle over the clown’s body thus adding, to the semi-comic, semi-sad effect, which allies her to the two other artists in the exhibition. In her printed statement, the artist claims that she “has a difficult time convincing her figures to slow down and brake.” Are these the self-portraits of a young artist, who graduated from the Maryland Institute, College of Arts in 1992, breaking away from stereotypes and searching for a new direction? The clown is somehow appealing, ingratiating and lovable all at once.



For information about and examples of the works of these three artists, contact Gomez Gallery at 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 100 (Tel: 410-662-9510).


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This story was published on January 31, 2001.