The Strength of the Invisible Queens.
The latest solo exhibit by Lark Calderon-Gomez explores the royalty and resilience of women, past and present. By Catherine Brozena.
- Lark Calderon-Gomez’s exhibit will open on November 11, 2017 and runs through the end of December at the Sanchez Contemporary Gallery, 1951 Telegraph Avenue.
- The gallery, owned and operated by Maria and Tim Sanchez, focuses on support for Bay Area Chican@/Latin@ artists and other underrepresented artists.
When you stare into the faces of the women whom Lark Calderon-Gomez paints, you will become exposed. The subjects stare back at you, their gaze soft but intense, their lips full and pursed in near-perfect ovals with expressions that are at once sensuous and solemn. Their resilience will summon strength from deep inside you that you never knew you had. They will speak without speaking, like the voices of your ancestors silently transmitting their history.
“These paintings are about me, about you, about the struggle of life in this country today,” said Calderon-Gomez. “Everybody has their trials and tribulations. Art is my way of dealing with them.”
Calderon-Gomez’s latest solo exhibition shows her adeptness at dealing with the tumultuousness of present times, transforming darkness into bold, glimmering images of women. Many of her paintings were inspired by the Women’s Marches that took place in the wake of the year’s presidential inauguration. They portray women cast against a stark gray background with elaborate golden-leafed headdresses evoking a sense of stateliness and royalty. The contrast is evocative.
“I feel like women today have to deal with so much misogyny and adversity,” she said. “To me, I feel every women should feel appreciated for their true strength and who they are.”
The women of Calderon-Gomez’s ancestry – most notably her mother and paternal grandmother- play a core role in her artmaking. Their hardship and tribulations as well as their perseverance and triumph, the way that they moved through the world, provide endless inspiration.
“My mother was a single mom raising three kids on her own, working full time while trying to date and keeps the bills paid. Maybe to society she was something else, but to me, she’s a queen.”
Born and raised in California, Calderon-Gomez recalled having to move around a lot as a child while her mother struggle hard to make ends meet. She credits her mother, also a gifted artist, for having instilled the wonder of art in her and her siblings at an early age, making it a permanent part of their lives.
“I was always fascinated by my mom’s paintings, and I’d ask her lots of questions. When I was 7 years old, she set up an easel next to her an invited me to oil paint. Growing up, we always had art supplies in the house.”
Later in life , Calderon-Gomez was able to get her father to open up about their family roots, the social and political history of Guatemala, and the life of her grandmother.
“Julia, my grandmother, was my muse. She left an abusive relationship and family’s inheritance to immigrate here in the 1940’s, working mainly as a seamstress in a sweatshop in downtown LA. To society she was an invisible. But really she was an elegant, beautiful, strong- ass woman. She would probably think her story was a common one, a small one, but to me it’s huge and full of life. It’s still relevant today.”
Calderon-Gomez entitles her latest installation Urgency of Life, inspired by a poem from the band Morcheeba: “Urgency of life, love the heat of the soul, warm breath to keep the demons on their toes. Everything seems to go faster and become more important daily, whilst at the same time becoming harder to fathom.”
Harder to fathom, indeed. But Calderon-Gomez’s art cuts through the unfathomable, the speed of life, and invites us to pause and to see the quiet fortitude of the figures she paints.
“One person’s invisible sweatshop worker is another person’s beautiful queen. I have so much respect for these people, their strength. I hope that a little bit rubs off on us when our time comes to face challenges. I hope I can rise to the occasion.”
Lark Calderon-Gomez’s exhibit will open on November 11, 2017 and runs through the end of December at the Sanchez Contemporary Gallery, 1951 Telegraph Avenue. The gallery, owned and operated by Maria and Tim Sanchez, focuses on support for Bay Area Chican@/Latin@ artists and other underrepresented artists.