The artists sharing their hearts with us this month at Tribes commit a rare act of optimism. They describe love. Parent, child, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend. These relationships of blood and love create ties that can be stretched to the point of breaking, or redoubled to a strength that lasts generations. Each of these artists holds an ultimately hopeful view of love, but they skirt sentimental notions of archetypal relationships. Even healthy love can be complicated, painful and filled with anxiety, but we still crave it. Perhaps the ‘ties that bind,’ whether through blood or vows, reflect an undeniable aspect of human nature, an impulse to connect.
Jackie Skrzynski makes drawings and paintings that complicate notions of childhood. From what she observes, children exhibit astonishing bravery. No wonder their play is filled with posturing and bravado. In these works, children brandish weapons or suck thumbs, confronting us or ignoring us. Skrzynski often inserts a protecting element. A skirt of teeth guards a young girl exploring her sexuality. A tangle of placenta surrounds two competing siblings. A baby lying prone and splayed has a dog’s sharp claws and fangs. Through these imagined situations, Skrzynski expands what the fierce love of a protecting mother can accomplish. In so doing, she also shows her limitations. Danger is a matter of daily life, bad luck or chance. This is animal love, by turns cunning, watchful and helpless.
Hila Sela makes oil paintings on panel of life-sized middle-aged women loosely based on her mother. They are naked except for a single adornment. Using signifiers such as a headdress, Sela prompts a reevaluation of a female body type that is typically ignored or dismissed. These women confront the notion that beauty is power. They glare, daring us to judge them on something as trivial as their looks. Yet their naked, sagging bodies appear embarrassingly humble. For all that attitude, they seem quite vulnerable. In this way, they act as both role models and cautionary tales. On one level, they are fat, old and reflecting on their failure to fulfill the dreams of their youth. On another level they are truly queens, surviving long enough to redefine themselves after their fertile years.