Tamara Gonzales: Seed
13 Jay Street, New York City
December 2, 2004 – January 8, 2005
In the particularly inspired artist’s statement accompanying her exhibition, Tamara Gonzales touches on this past summer’s Donovan concert and the notion that plants can talk, then more pessimistically wonders if Americans are really interested in dying free. “It was looking more and more likely that they would rather die full.” Gonzales cites a misremembered image by Joan Miro as the beginning of her recent series of paintings. She recounts that while painting a large blue dot it multiplied, becoming what she variously interprets as planets, suns and flowers as well as souls that have been taken away by wars.
To this viewer, most of the paintings on display look like amoebas sprouting nippled petals and quickly bring to mind Cybele, a.k.a. Artemis, the many-breasted Anatolian fertility goddess. Gonzales has visited Selcuk, Turkey and seen the multi-titted luminous sculptures that were once part of the “Artemision” temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The extant stone deities seem to possess infinite fecundity. This goddess, who eventually was remodeled into the Virgin Mary, came from Zeus when he ejaculated on the ground while sleeping. Gonzales chthonic paintings, in homage, use sticky/shiny white enamel as if it was a kind magic lacteal sperm. Gonzales painted faces in the dots then painted them out.
Gonzales’ influences derive from time spent in Mexico, which she visits during Day of the Dead festivities and India. “I remembered that widows wear white in Varanasi” she writes. Evidence also points to her Hispanic American identity, her Buddhism and a decorative impulse derived from the Christmas decorations found around Williamsburg, Brooklyn and the rural Catskills. Gonzales’ use of cheap novelty merchandise lends irony to the mythic aspect as it points out that this stuff makes up our common global language. The landscape of the populated world is one part Fourteenth Street and one part dirt road. This group of cosmic hippie paintings is, in fact, giving us a very big picture of our historical moment. It’s a wonderful show and well-timed for a season of pagan, tribal, religious and consumer holidays.