Painting the melodies
Music, poetry and painting converge for show at Naked Lounge
Creativity bursts out of people in many ways, but too often it seems the development and harmonization of multiple outlets for our art is challenged by an urge to focus on only one mode of expression. That said, it is refreshing to see downtown coffeehouse Naked Lounge host the aptly titled Song of Color exhibit and live music/poetry reception (last Friday, July 14) featuring two local multifaceted artists—musician/painter Jesi Naomi and poet/painter Caira Hart—presenting pieces that showcase how their crafts intertwine and enhance each other.
Naomi is already well known as a vocalist and songwriter in the local music community. She nabbed a CAMMIE Award for Best Female Vocalist this year, and she’ll be back at Naked Lounge this week (Friday, July 21) to play a set with Jasuka, her collaboration with local jazz ringers Bogg.
I’ve experienced her singing and paintings in separate settings before, and she is equally soulful in both media. At the Naked Lounge, her oil and acrylic piece “Maria,” depicting the top half of a woman’s face with closed eyes presumably inhaling the fragrance of a bouquet of flowers, is a ballad in rough but gently evocative brushstrokes. She’s used a full palette of complementary colors, with dots and smudges of sky blue punctuating the union of the figure’s hair and the flower petals.
More graphically ambiguous, but still beautiful and evocative of a peaceful inner state, is Naomi’s “Wintun Wisdom.” The painting’s main figure has the face of a serenely sleeping woman with a body composed of broad-stroked arcs linked in a pattern reminiscent of tree bark or reptilian scales. Trapezoids and triangles of earth tones make up her hair or headdress resembling abstract palm fronds. Floating spheres of orange reflect the contrasting blue tones of the background, and from the figure’s leafy hand, scrolls or tubes inscribed with abstract script dangle as if swaying in a gentle breeze.
Hart’s portion of the exhibit presents pieces paired with words, such as the painting of a woman’s head and upper torso, head tilted back, mouth open in song and/or ecstasy against a background of stars as a scarlet poppy flower blossoms from her chest. The accompanying text reads, “Song, in the silence/drum of my heart/The wind calling to my veins/Unseen/Innate/Cells tethered in skin/bursting within/blossoming quick/to the sound of my kin.” Viewed holistically, rather than as an illustration of a poem or the description of an image, the piece is united in an invocation of art’s power to evoke raw experience with a complementary fusion of image and words.
And her “Torres del Paine,” with text in Spanish, portrays the faces and hands of three ages of women progressing from a matriarchal figure to a young woman to an infant. The emotions on faces are lucid, with the eldest projecting calm and acceptance, her gnarled hand lifted in a welcoming gesture. The young woman appears slightly apprehensive, her hand partially folded as if to grasp something intangible, and the infant’s face is suffused with smiling wonder, her hands clasped joyfully together.
Both artists’ selections for this exhibit focus on the hands and faces of women to convey feelings of strength and unity fused with tradition and inherited wisdom. The outpouring of creativity is impressive, and when touring the images—or just sitting among them while sipping an invigorating or soothing beverage—one can’t help but absorb a little of that energy.