BIRDS OF PARADISE

Sara Golish, November 2017


November 3, 6-8pm


Artist(s):

Sara Golish

About the Exhibit

In this series, Sara adopts the techniques of traditional portraiture from 19th century aestheticism through an eco-feminist lens in order to depict traditionally oppressed bodies with dignity and grace. She does this while continuing to explore...

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BIRDS OF PARADISE

A Solo Exhibit by Sara Golish



In this series, Sara adopts the techniques of traditional portraiture from 19th century aestheticism through an eco-feminist lens in order to depict traditionally oppressed bodies with dignity and grace. She does this while continuing to explore the interplay of vibrant colours, painterly techniques and gold leaf with a nod to Magical Realism and the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

In Birds of Paradise, Sara experiments with layering foliage and figure to create a verdant body of contours which intersect and weave across the canvas to guide the viewer's eye. The women in this series are both unique in their colourful individuality, but they acknowledge each other through their knowing gazes, which meet and intersect throughout the gallery space. They are keenly aware of being watched and they share this awareness with each other. Hence they problematize the otherwise voyeuristic gaze of the ethnographic and ornithological lens. As the viewer moves through the gallery they come to occupy the space through which these women gaze back. Thus a sense of line and composition is created, not only on the paintings, but as another set of contours that leap off the work and into the gallery space itself.

Birds of Paradise also interrogates the symbolism of conventional oil portraiture through a lens of eco-feminism by depicting traditionally oppressed bodies with beauty, dignity and grace. In classical early modern portraiture, affluent women were traditionally presented as modestly posed, lavishly dressed, embellished with jewelry, but exhibited shallow expressionless faces that revealed no psychological depth. The woman’s body served to display men’s accumulation of wealth, power, and status. When women of colour made an appearance in such oil paintings, they appeared exclusively as servants and exotic curiosities demonstrating the imperial reach of the aristocrat’s power and wealth. This series is about liberating not just the subject from the patriarchal grasp, but liberating the form, techniques and materials from their historical usage and symbolism. The tropes and images of the traditional canon become resignified. These women, like their avian companions, are uncaged and unashamed and the gold leaf serves an aesthetic function rather than a display of affluence. The tropical setting represents women’s traditional connection to the earth, while also alluding to the colonial history of oppression.

The women of these pieces are inspired by a pantheon of goddesses. In Greek architecture, columns were sometimes cut in the shapes of women called Caryatids. These columns are female figures who bear the weight of the entablature with grace and dignity, much like how women are expected to bear the weight of the world with quiet sufferance. Yet the Caryatid still stand erect and proud. This series is about that grace, how women, especially women of colour, must share the weight of their oppression and never show fragility.

In Birds of Paradise, Sara accompanies each woman with a bird to symbolize the common experience and struggles shared by all women. Each piece is given a zoological binomial nomenclature inspired by Greek goddesses to tie the classical themes of the series to the ornithological motif. These birds represent the individual uniqueness of how women each experience oppression in varying configurations and degrees of intensity while sharing a common experience. The lavish colours, like the rainbow of the Pride flag, therefore come to symbolize strength through adversity, celebration of diversity and fortitude of spirit.

Exhibit Images


Opening Night

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ROBERT LANGE STUDIOS

TWO QUEEN ST, CHARLESTON

Robert Lange Studios