Sunday, February 10, 2019

Nicole Charbonnet: Key to All Mythologies

We may think we know about myths, but what are they really? More than just old Greek and Roman legends that our Mardi Gras parades were often named after, myths are stories that unite past and present, universal ideas and intimate experiences, or so Nola artist Nicole Charbonnet suggests in her new mixed media paintings. If the ideal forms of traditional Olympian deities belied their famously messy personal lives, Charbonnet cuts to the quick by mixing their iconic allure with a graphical goulash of modern grit and lurid innuendo. “Danaë and the Shower of Gold,” top, based on Adolf Wertmüller's 1787 painting of the Greek princess ravished by the great god Zeus disguised as a golden mist, somehow unites the legends of the Roman poet Ovid with messy modern graffiti and seductive mass media imagery that blurs the boundaries between advertising and soft porn. In so doing, she infuses the ephemeral with the eternal, and maybe a hint of the infernal.

Similarly, in “After Michelangelo,” upper left, the ghostly image of one of the renaissance artist's typically beefy, NFL linebacker-esque torsos seems to be emerging from the painting's dense texture, a surface that recalls a crumbling wall replete with splattered paint and pockmarks that amount to a record of time's indignities over the ages. In “Amor Vincit Omnia – After Caravaggio,” contemporary chaos sets the tone in a scene where splatters of pink paint overwhelm green figurative swatches in ways that recall the iconic graffiti-riddled anarchy of a St. Claude Avenue streetscape. “After Modigliani” is more demure, an imprint of a sly Sibyl etched into a sun-bleached Italian rampart, but “After Giorgione,” above, is more frontal, a modern day Venus as an assertive soft porn princess. If the collective chaos of these works can seem disorienting at first, the way they really do appear to integrate the wild and colorfully humanistic aspects of the past with the digitally enhanced chaos of the present, fulfills visual art's role as a stimulant to the integrative processes of the imagination, processes without which there would be no resilience, and consequently no healing. ~Bookhardt / Key to All Mythologies: Mixed Media Paintings by Nicole Charbonnet, Through Feb. 23, Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999.