Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Brushes of Fire --the Art of Sonya Fe|
|Written by Diana Martinez | Editor|
|Thursday, 10 October 2013 02:56|
Artist Sonya Fe, known for strong, rich and uniquely translucent paintings, has brought her work to the Fremont Gallery in South Pasadena for a solo exhibition.
Fe, originally from Los Angeles and now living in Northern California, is exhibiting both her "on fire," early work that first captured the attention of the art world, along with her most recent "explosive" work.
Fe, known for her big personality, stood very tall, carefully balancing on very high heels during the night of her opening reception. She also wore a big faux fur hat, which together made her six feet tall.
But it wasn't really needed, Fe's work and strong presence always stands head and shoulders above others.
After all, art and the encouragement to communicate with her gift has always been "her calling." As a child, the cement floor of her family's home was her canvas, and chalk and crayon was her medium. Each day it was mopped clean and the next day she drew another for her family's amusement. She was fortunate to have parents who encouraged her gift; her father would take her on outings to places where she could paint people, trees and animals or whatever caught her eye and interested her.
She remembers a trip to the department store with her father, who pointed to a pretty painting but told her it was "dead," that it needed much more – it needed "depth." She heeded the advice of her father who told her to do more than just paint what she sees on the surface.
"My father helped me to see that a pretty painting can just be all technique and something just to hang over a couch, but that kind of artwork was "dead," Fe said.
"When I was first painting, I would remember what he said, and sometimes it was a curse because I just wanted to paint," she continued. "But art is not the simple. I don't try to make everything perfect looking. I allow the paint to move, to do what it's going to do to work with me." Or as her husband, writer Arturo Munoz Vasquez describes it; "Sonya mixes gun powder with her paint to create 'Brushes of Fire.'"
That's not too far from the truth. Fe uses wax and copal with her oil paint. Often used for rituals for healing and ceremony, copal is very sacred and burned as incense, used in ceremonies and for healings since before the invasion of the Spanish conquests to the Americas.
Fe believes the materials that she uses she helps her to do more than paint. It enables her to express herself emotionally.
"I find that these combinations of using wax and copal on my oil paint make a variety of textures, translucence and shades. Such depth of colors can be achieved through this technique," Fe explained.
"I know I am finished with my work when I feel I can walk into the painting and join my subjects in their world of memory, pain, honor, humor, and acceptance."
Painting women and indigenous people in a respectful manner is a strong component of Fe's art. Her recent work is a result of her travels to Oaxaca, Mexico and Guatemala.
"In painting these women and children, I have attempted to capture their dignity, their awareness with who they are, and show them the respect they deserve with brush strokes, layers of paint and brilliant colors of the culture. I paint women and children not in a sentimental way, I paint them with respect," Fe said.
On one trip she took note of the clothing of the Triqui Indian people who wore the color red everywhere, and Fe was eager to return home to her studio to paint them in the color that they wore like art. "In this case, I painted just what I saw, but in most other cases I paint what I see and know," Fe said. "My work is still changing and it is different now. I think when I was younger it was more abstract, and now it's become more like storytelling and I have a combination of hard edge and soft images.
"I cannot work the same way for the rest of my life, we have the ability to take another look at things."
Fe said that everything on the walls of her exhibit reflect something that she has experienced. A favorite work of art is a drawing of "Miss Ruby," an African American woman that used to cut ice cream and put it on paper plates. "My work is all things that I've seen and things that I know."
Extending respect for life and female artists is an important component of her work. Her father, Jose Martinez Williams, was a Black Native American Indian on his father's side and Mexican on his mother's side. Fe's 93-year-old mother is Jewish. "They were both pioneers," she said. "My mother left her east coast Jewish home and came to Los Angeles and married a Catholic, and they raised me not be either Catholic or Jewish but gave me the freedom to explore."
Fe is passionate when speaking to young boys and girls, encouraging them to explore and not to be confined by other's opinions.
"I tell girls to throw all of those magazines away that tell you what you should look like and how to get a man. I never read them. Little girls are feisty when they're very young, and as they start to develop they become more careful and reserved. I encourage them to just go for it," Fe said.
She is equally as passionate about the need for more opportunities and respect for women artists as she is about the all the images that she paints. Female artists, she said, have been criticized and made to feel uncomfortable for painting children, women, flowers and animals. But Fe makes no apologies for doing exactly that.
"For example, I see the child as a person, with the ability to think beyond what we as people think children think, and not just see them as a cute little angel. I do not want you to get diabetes when looking at my paintings of children, rather look at them as individuals with respect and honor.
"Frida Kahlo didn't receive wide recognition for her work until she passed away," Fe points out. "She was fighting for her own show and she was literally on her death bed when she finally got her one-woman show."
Fe said that too often when women do exhibit their work, it's promoted as a "woman" show rather than an art show, which separates women from their rightful title as artists. It can be a tactic to attempt to negotiate their prices down, something male artists would not be subjected to as frequently.
"Also, when men have shows, it isn't advertised as a 'men's' show. It's just not correct, no more than a black singer should be qualified as a 'black' singer instead of being defined simply as a singer."
What has worked for Fe is not being confined. While she has had a formal art education, she continues to experiment and encourages others to do the same.
Many artists attending Fe's opening praised her work for its skill and independence.
Actor and photographer Richard Yniguez compared her work to Mexican Master Diego Rivera. "Sonya's work reminded me so much of Diego's – with a rustic feel of real life and the colors of the earth just jump out at you. She deserves international praise for her work."
Mission Hills and L.A. Cathedral sacred artist Lalo Garcia, known for using a limited three-color palette to advance his ability to create sacred art, attended Fe's show and also had high praise for her. "While you can see the study that she has put in, and the influence of great master artists in Sonya Fe's work, you also see that she is truly an artist that challenges herself with her materials and selection of color to achieve what few have been able to do to create her own distinct expression."
For Fe, the journey continues with the lessons she's was taught years ago, to understand that taking the easy path doesn't push you to reach that next artistic leap.
"I look at each painting as a challenge and a learning opportunity to improve my next painting," she said. "I see my art as the communicator of memory, pain, honor, humor and acceptance.
"I use soothing earth tones, which remind me of everyday normalcy, and yet on the same canvas I will use stark blues and whites, which shakes me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to feel discomfort."
"Brushes of Fire – The Art of Sonya Fe" is on exhibit now and will run until October 30.
The Fremont Gallery is located at 812 Fremont Ave., Suite 100, in South Pasadena. Gallery hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday thru Saturday. For more information, call (626) 403-9902 or visit www.fremontgallery.com.
A. S onya Fe at work in her studio.
B. A ll I Got Was The Burro
D. I t's Important To Feel The Earth
E. Can I Keep It Afterwards
F. Pulling Strings
All images courtesy of the Sonya Fe and the Fremont Gallery.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 10 October 2013 03:11|