So these were the parameters, I learned from Kathy Gallegos of Avenue 50 Studio: no violence, obviously. No sexual reference. Nothing downbeat or threatening. And no representations of male figures--a sad reflection of the fact that the vast majority of the aggressors who mistreat these children are men. One of only two pictures that were rejected for the current show--once the artists understood the situation, they knew how to respond--featured the image of a saint with hand raised in blessing: it could have been seen as a gesture signaling the threat of violence. Nothing, then, that might evoke the trauma that had been visited upon the youngest and most vulnerable of our citizens.
It turns out that there is a lot to be said for unabashedly upbeat art. First, that it need not be sentimental or absurdly Polly-annish. There is an exuberance in the VIP show that lights up the institutional spaces of the hospital reception areas and corridors, suffusing them with joyful energy and color and yet not playing down to the audience. Frank Romero's "Holiday Gifts: Guitar with Teddy" captures the spirit of things perfectly.
|Frank Romero, "Holiday Gifts: Guitar with Teddy," 2000, o/c, 2.5 x 3.5 ft|
The representation of natural beauty can easily be a trap for painters in our modern times because it is so easy to fall into the pretty picture syndrome. Still, nature remains one of the great sources of human joy, and it is unsurprising to find it either as the focus or as the backdrop for many of these paintings. Consider the cactus plants in"Border and Spirits," a picture skillfully painted by Raoul de la Sota.
|Raoul de la Sota, "Border Spirits," 1998, acrylic and tissue on canvas, 47" x 79"|
Despite those spines with their "don't touch me" warning, this rich evocation of a familiar Southern California sight manages to convey the warmth and fertility of the environment. Backlit by sunlight, the cactus blossoms glow with exotic, subtropical promise of healing energy.
Rich color predominates in the show. Even a night painting by Kikki Eder, "Shortcut through City Terrance," is radiant with it:
|Kikki Eder, "Shortcut through City Terrace," o/c, 36" x 30"|
Street lamps turn magically into big yellow suns and planets, pavements turn into rivers of orange and gold, buildings seem built of flowing lava. The city morphs into a scrumptious candyland orgy of soft edges and liquid paint.
The painting that perhaps most responded to Dr. Heger's vision, and which she insisted should be placed right at the entry to the clinic is Poli Marichal's "After the Rain"(the image below, I'm afraid, does not begin to do it justice)...