Sunday, May 29, 2016

Molina at The Front / Lief at Coup

All over the world, nature and motherhood have long been viewed as essential facets of life on earth. But if Mother's Day seems like a natural holiday, Earth Day can often seem more like an afterthought, and those concerns merge in Cristina Molina's video and photographic works at The Front. With her native south Florida as a backdrop, Molina focuses on three generations of her Latina family members, from sleekly glamorous young women and elegant middle age ladies to a magisterial matriarch. Some appear in dreamlike tableaux in garments cut from the same floral cloth like surreal scenes from Hispanic fiction, while others evoke saints with palmetto frond halos. Florida's sinking coastal plains provide an otherworldly backdrop for scenes where finely formed human hands appear as petals on tropical flora. A dreamy video, The Ice of the World, explores the  challenge of navigating the labyrinths of family and nature in an time of looming deluge, as the ice of the world melts into warm currents that inexorably rise to reclaim what we once assumed was ours.

Nature takes Dona Lief's retrospective at Coup is comprised of meticulously crafted works ranging from the 1970s to the present. After starting out as a creator of strange oversize insect sculptures, Lief morphed into painting pop stars and celebrities as mutant species replete with colorful wings, sharp mandibles and spindly antennae, as all-too-familiar figures like Madonna, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson are reborn as moths, flies and mantises—microwaved by the relentless media glare into strange hybrid beings defined by iridescent outer husks so opaque that we may wonder what if anything is left inside the scintillating facade. Her most human portraits are of more recent local rappers and bounce artists like Katy Red and Big Freedia, figures not yet transmuted into the predictably chimerical life forms that characterize American celebrity culture today. ~Bookhardt / The Matriarchs: New Media by Cristina Molina, Through June 5, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980; And the Beat Goes On: Paintings and Mixed Media by Dona Lief, Through June 4 Coup d'Oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876.